'We believe we have saved lives' - 20 years since Caroline Stuttle's death

Caroline Stuttle died while backpacking in Australia in 2002. Credit: Family photograph

There are certain stories you cover as a journalist that stick with you and for me, the story of what happened to Caroline Stuttle from York is one of them.

What happened 20 years ago this month was profoundly shocking. She was travelling around Australia when a man attacked her to steal her bag, looking for money to pay for drugs. He threw her from a bridge and she died.

In 2002 I was fairly new to journalism, only slightly older than Caroline. To be reporting on the death of someone around my own age in such tragic circumstances really struck a chord with me and over the next few years I interviewed Caroline's family on many occasions. Knowing this anniversary was approaching I listened back to some of my old interviews with them. They were always so generous with their time and heartbreakingly honest as they described the pain of their loss:

In that report from 2004 you hear Caroline's family talk about how they wanted to use what happened to them to help other young people plan trips abroad, learning how to keep themselves safe in the face of unexpected danger. That is where the idea from Caroline's Rainbow Foundation came from and I really wanted to go back and speak to her family again to mark, what I know will be a difficult anniversary for them.

Two decades on Caroline's family believe it has saved lives and it is something which Caroline's mother Marjorie Marks finds a particular comfort: "You sort of think she's with me, she's around me, I can feel her and then other times I just think of all those things that we've missed out on. To do something positive and help other people. That has really helped us, and it's been a comfort to us to think that somebody else's family won't be going through what we're doing because they've listened to what we've said."

Listen to more of our interview with Caroline's mother Marjorie Marks:

The charity shares advice on safer travel on its website, it has developed an app which young people and their parents can download to help plan their trips and is also now exploring ways of using virtual reality technology to put young people in scenarios to see how they would react.

Caroline's brother Richard Stuttle regularly gives talks to young people to share his own experiences of travelling and to talk about what happened to his sister: "It's been longer than she's passed than she was alive. We've had another lifetime almost after her lifetime so it's heartbreaking in a way. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, and sometimes it seems such a long time ago. It's tinged with sadness when I think about Caroline because of what happened, but there's always a smile as well, and there's always the memory of the person that she was and the person that I grew up with."

Watch more of our interview with Caroline's brother Richard:

The family are still in touch with the former detective David Batt from Bundaberg in Australia who helped to investigate Caroline's death. Reflecting now, he admits it was a very challenging investigation: "It was the most difficult case I've been involved in, especially the murder case. We don't get a lot of murders in Bundaberg, so it was difficult. It was draining that we wanted to make sure and from the commission today, I wanted to make sure that we put every effort into finding who was responsible for Caroline's death."

David now works for the local council there which has made plans to commemorate the 20 year anniversary next week with a new memorial to Caroline.

Watch more from our interview with former detective David Batt:

Richard and Marjorie say they often think about what Caroline would be doing now if she was still alive. She wanted to be a criminal psychologist. They like to imagine her working in New York which was somewhere she had considered for her travels but eventually chose Australia believing it would be safer.

As they both explain, they can hardly believe 20 years have passed. It is the same feeling I had when working on this story, hearing them both speak so openly about their loss and the work they continue to do in her memory.

Having listened to them speak about Caroline on so many occasions, sharing family photographs and personal memories it makes me wish I had been able to meet her myself.

When they started the charity they did not believe it would last as long as it has. It is a testament to their determination that out of their own grief they would create a lasting legacy for Caroline which has a positive impact on the lives of many other young people.

Watch James Webster's full report on the 20th anniversary of Caroline Stuttle's death: