The parents of an Australian au pair who was killed in the London Bridge terror attacks have said that “love will always win over hate” as they set off on a charity cycle ride in honour of their daughter.
The week-long fundraiser set off on Sunday from the spot in the shadow of Southwark Cathedral where Sara Zelenak died on June 3, 2017 to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Ms Zelenak was killed just weeks before she had planned to meet her parents in Paris on June 30 and dad Mark Wallace said they will instead "meet her in spirit" on the exact day.
The cyclists will also be joined by the first-responders who tried to save Ms Zelenak's life on the first and last day of the ride.
Money raised will help towards setting up a healing retreat to support people trying to cope with traumatic grief after a sudden or violent death, ranging from terror attacks to a car crash.
Ms Zelenak’s mother Julie Wallace described it as a “horrendous day” when her daughter was killed but said that creating the Sarz Sanctuary charity – named after her daughter’s nickname – is “bringing something positive over something negative and making love win over hate”.
Mrs Wallace, 52, a former personal trainer, thanked the 40 riders who are taking part along with well-wishers and survivors who each laid a flower before the event began.
She said: “From the bottom of my heart, I am so grateful for the love and support. Love wins every time.”
Her husband Mark Wallace, 51, a former underground drilling expert, said: “It is not a situation where we need to focus on terror. We do not focus on the attackers but on the positive things in life. We have to try and take the high road."
He said that “grief is such an individual journey” and that knowing his daughter’s legacy now involves helping people is a positive thing.
Eight people died and 48 were injured after Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, launched a van and knife attack on June 3 2017.
They mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing innocent bystanders at random in nearby Borough Market.
Christine Delcros, whose boyfriend was killed in the attack in which she was also badly hurt, travelled to give her support.
The body of her boyfriend Xavier Thomas was found in the River Thames after he was struck by a van driven by the three attackers.
Cricketer Monty Panesar, who is doing about 10km of the ride as it makes its way through London, said: “It is just about supporting them. None of this is easy. I think they are doing brilliant in helping people with traumatic grief.”
George Brandis, the Australian High Commissioner to the UK, sent all the riders off with a personal message of support.
He told the Wallaces: “Instead of being borne down by grief, you have taken that grief and turned it into a wonderful opportunity to try and help people who have suffered as you have suffered.”
He also praised those taking part, which includes family and friends who had travelled from Australia, survivors, emergency service workers and people who tried to save Ms Zelenak in the aftermath of the killings.
He said: “It is a wonderful thing that you are doing because you are, of course, honouring the memory of Sara Zelenak but also the memory of the other seven who were and those who were injured in the terrorist attack.”
A tranquil spot in Noosa Hinterland in Queensland, Australia, has already been picked for the first retreat which is set to offer personalised support and treatment programmes.
Yoga, mindfulness, meditation, massage and organic food are set to be part of the holistic healing package.
Encouraged by her family, Ms Zelenak, originally of Queensland, was “the happiest she had ever been,” travelling around the world enjoying the “trip of a lifetime” before her death, according to Mr Wallace.
London-based Ms Zelenak had also been counting down the days to when she was due to meet up with her relatives for a family holiday in Paris but she never lived to make that trip, and now her family have turned the journey into an annual London to Paris fundraising cycle ride.
Ms Zelenak died nearly instantaneously after being stabbed in the neck and elsewhere on her body during the terror attack. James McMullan, 32, rushed to help her but they were both set upon. He also died.
As well as Ms Zelenak, Mr McMullan and Mr Thomas, Christine Archibald, 30, Sebastien Belanger, 36, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were all killed in the attack, which lasted less than 10 minutes. Their attackers were shot dead by armed police.