How do you grieve a son who has killed four people?
How do you grieve a son who has killed four people?

How do you grieve a son who killed four people?

HOW DO you grieve your son when his last act was so devastating, so reckless, so criminal He's dead but so are four other young people, another badly injured, and it was your son who killed them.

Your 18-year-old was drunk and stoned at the wheel of a speeding car that collided with their broken down Holden, turning it into a fireball.

Turning a 15-month-old girl into an orphan.

'We don't support it': Family's heartfelt letter

The enormity of it, the horror, overwhelmed Melissa McGuinness and left her flailing.

"I felt like I didn't have the right to grieve," says the mother of Jordan Hayes-McGuinness, the young man who made all the wrong choices.

"I completely and utterly forgive anyone for feeling ill towards Jordan because he did the wrong thing. And what's left behind is so painful, so awful and lifelong, it's debilitating."

Drunk and drugged, Jordan Hayes-McGuinness smashed into a carload of people - killing four people and himself.
Drunk and drugged, Jordan Hayes-McGuinness smashed into a carload of people - killing four people and himself.

Seven years later, she's standing in front of scores of young people, pointing to a photo of the handsome boy she loves and saying: This is my son, he killed four people and himself and he is 100 per cent to blame. He died in shame.She's not after sympathy.

She's after change.

Melissa McGuinness with one of her son Jordan’s rugby jerseys. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Melissa McGuinness with one of her son Jordan’s rugby jerseys. Picture: Mark Cranitch

 The people Hayes-McGuinness killed on December 8, 2012, were Natasha Maggs, 23, her boyfriend Allan Sullivan, 20, Tiana Williams, 17, and her boyfriend Kody Holland-Williams, 18.

The driver, Thomas Bayer, 16, suffered severe burns to his legs after climbing over his dead friend Maggs to escape the burning wreck.

Maggs and Sullivan had a toddler, Annabelle, who was not with them the night their car went up in flames. She's now eight.

Tiana Williams, 17
Tiana Williams, 17

McGuinness, 49, has never made contact with their families.

She'd like to, she says, but police have advised her not to, telling her it's up to the families to contact her.

It's advice McGuinness is sticking to.

"My family's done enough to their families," says McGuinness.

"We don't want to be arrogant enough to assume they want to hear from us. For all we know, they want nothing to do with us. Part of not [contacting them] is out of respect for those families."

Natasha Maggs, 23, and Allan Sullivan, 20
Natasha Maggs, 23, and Allan Sullivan, 20

She knows that decision will be questioned, just as she knows people question her parenting. She does it herself.

As she sits with her husband, Peter McGuinness, 52, in their unit overlooking Tugun Beach on the southern Gold Coast, telling how she came to deliver her piercing road safety message to teenagers, the conversation is peppered with dozens of whys and what ifs.

Kody Holland-Williams, 18
Kody Holland-Williams, 18

Why did he speed and drink drive when she'd drummed it into him that every car could contain someone's Montana or Kitty, his two sisters, now 17 and 11, who he loved?

Why didn't she know he used marijuana?

A friend told the inquest Hayes-McGuinness was a moderate to heavy user and would regularly drive having used it.

"I know what it smells like," says McGuinness.

"I never smelled it on him. But he did it. He did it that night, he probably did do it [other times]. I missed the signs."

The coroner's report said the friend also said he knew Hayes-McGuinness had driven while intoxicated "on a few occasions".

And what made him drive from Brisbane to the Gold Coast that night after his work Christmas party?

Even if sober, he shouldn't have been driving: he was on a restricted licence after receiving a low-level speeding infringement while on his P plates.

Jordan Hayes-McGuinness on his 18th birthday
Jordan Hayes-McGuinness on his 18th birthday

To compound an already horrific situation, he'd been clocked speeding just days before his death.
The unopened notice was in the mail McGuinness took possession of after his death.
"I remember opening that and going, 'Oh my god, on top of everything'. Knowing all of that would come out. If I was somebody reading in the news what Jordan had done to those kids, the thoughts I would have had about Jordan."

She can't fathom why he was so reckless when his life was on the rise.
He'd just got an apprenticeship with builder and ex-Bronco, Phillip Lee, and loved it.
He'd moved to Brisbane in July into a house with two workmates, Jack and Billy Walters, the sons of Queensland State of Origin coach, Kevin Walters.
He loved rugby union and had been accepted to play for GPS Rugby Club.
He'd met a girlfriend only a few weeks earlier.

Jordan Hayes-McGuinness’s car at the site of the crash which he caused, killing himself and four others on December 8, 2012.
Jordan Hayes-McGuinness’s car at the site of the crash which he caused, killing himself and four others on December 8, 2012.

"This is the sadness I feel," says McGuinness.
"I just think, 'You'd made it. You were there. You had great friends, a family who loves you, you had your career in place. You were committed to your rugby, you had your life and'," she says, her voice faltering, 'you were a good kid'."

"In the last couple of years, you really saw the beautiful man emerge," she says.
"My relationship became much better with him in those last couple of years.
He just matured. We sort of had the reverse of, you know how kids in their teens go mental, we sort of had the reverse."

His earlier years had been troubled.
"He'd done his ratbag stuff," his mother says.
She knows the breakdown of her relationship with his father when her son was three upset him.
The parents shared custody of him after McGuinness moved in with another man and had Montana.
When she met Peter and moved to Tugun, Hayes-McGuinness stayed with his father in Helensvale to the north for about four years.
At 16, he decided to live with her, Peter, Montana and Kitty, the couple's daughter.

Melissa McGuinness at home with her husband Peter and daughters, Montana, 17, and Kitty, 11. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Melissa McGuinness at home with her husband Peter and daughters, Montana, 17, and Kitty, 11. Picture: Mark Cranitch

"When he moved home for those last two-and-a-half years, permanently, and had boundaries of mum and dad, he flourished."
He was very close to Peter, adding McGuinness to his surname as soon as he turned 18.

"He was thriving," says Peter.
"He'd found his place. He wasn't a saint but he was a good man."

HOW TRAGEDY UNFOLDED

Jack Walters, who had left the work party in the late afternoon and was in bed, was woken by Hayes-McGuinness coming home about 11.15pm.
About 10 minutes later, Walters heard a loud revving noise and looked out his window to see Hayes-McGuinness, looking "concentrated and angry" at the wheel of his red Nissan Pulsar.
He reversed the car, hitting Walters' vehicle, and sped off. Walters sent a text saying, "Don't drive mate don't be stupid".

About the same time, Thomas Bayer was cruising down the Pacific Motorway when his Holden Statesman lost power, forcing him to pull over into the shoulder lane in the 110km/h section near Coomera.

Thomas Bayer, who survived the crash.
Thomas Bayer, who survived the crash.

He'd just fitted the Holden with a V8 engine and he and his mates from Logan had planned to show off his wheels on the Gold Coast.
At 16 and on a learner's licence, he'd asked Maggs to be his supervising driver.
She and Sullivan agreed, leaving 15-month-old Annabelle with Maggs' parents.
Kody Holland-Williams and Tiana Williams came along for the ride, with a number of other vehicles travelling in the group.
The three men and others from the convoy tried to fix the car with no luck.

Bayer called his mother to ask her to contact the RACQ.
The others in the convoy left.
The five waited in the Holden.
Just after midnight, the speeding and swerving car driven by Hayes-McGuinness clipped the guard rail and ran into the back of the Holden, propelling it 30m forward.
Within minutes, it went up in flames.

 

 

A MUM'S AGONY

Melissa McGuinness giving her speech to teenage students, with a treasured photo in the background. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
Melissa McGuinness giving her speech to teenage students, with a treasured photo in the background. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

"But none of that means anything now," says McGuinness.
"None of it. Because he defined himself permanently by his actions that night. He shaped a terrible, permanent legacy for himself, his family, his victims and his victims' families. Everything he did before that night pales in comparison. Everything."

A few boys furtively wipe tears from their eyes.
"Think of all the good stuff you've done in your life. Think of all the effort that people who love you have put into your life. Imagine all of that being wiped out by one stupid decision," says McGuinness.
"Jordan didn't have an accident that night. That's what happened to his victims. Jordan made a choice. Don't ... leave a legacy like his."

"Own the choice, own the outcome" is the overriding message of McGuinness's talk, one of 50 she delivered last year.
Her first was almost five years after the crash, in September 2017, when Tracey Clouston, a Gold Coast community liaison officer with the police, asked McGuinness if she'd share her story at a road safety day at Upper Coomera State College.
The couple knew Clouston from the Lutheran Church which they joined in 2015.
"[The church] has helped us to find a degree of meaning, grace, peace, in all of this turmoil," says Peter.

Peter and Melissa McGuinness: “We’re carrying guilt.” Picture: Mark Cranitch
Peter and Melissa McGuinness: “We’re carrying guilt.” Picture: Mark Cranitch

McGuinness had never done any public speaking.
But she had words already written.
In the days and years after the crash, at night, when the girls were asleep and her brain was buzzing, she'd jot down her thoughts.
So she pulled them together and bared her soul to 600 students.

"I absolutely cried during that first talk. But I remember this ambulance guy coming up to me and saying, 'That is the best thing I've ever watched and I am just so grateful to you'. Quite a few kids came up and thanked me afterwards and gave me hugs."

Her second talk was not until June 2018, this time at Jordan's old school, Palm Beach Currumbin State High.
It also received a strong response, leading the McGuinnesses to feel they needed to continue.
Says Peter: "We're carrying guilt and in time we came to recognise there's a certain purpose in having that guilt that we carry."

The one-hour speech that evolved is potent, interspersed with news footage of the crash, of the then-10-year-old Montana sobbing as she speaks at her brother's memorial; of the surfers' paddle-out ceremony on the Gold Coast that followed.
Of the heartbroken victims' families filing out of the coronial inquest which McGuinness didn't attend. "I didn't have the courage."

She doesn't spend too much time on facts and figures, although there are a few sideways glances in the Trade College crowd when she says statistics show that they are sitting near someone who does, or who will, habitually drive recklessly.
"Maybe it's you. Maybe it's your mate," McGuinness says.
By the time they're 25, they'll know someone who died in road trauma. "It may have already happened."

“This is why your parents nag.” The photograph Melissa McGuinness uses in her speech to show the despair caused by the loss of a child.
“This is why your parents nag.” The photograph Melissa McGuinness uses in her speech to show the despair caused by the loss of a child.

What she does focus on is the personal, urging the teenagers to not see her while she tells her son's story, but their own mother, or father or loved one standing in her place.
To imagine they are on the podium talking about them, dead and disgraced.
She puts up a photograph of herself in the depths of despair, eyes red, face drawn and says: "This is what your mother, your father, your brothers and your sisters are going to look like for days, weeks, months and years to come if something happens to you. This my friends," she says, moving over to point at the picture, "this is why your parents nag. I miss Jordan every single day. While the crying is no longer daily, the heartache is just so overwhelming."
She taps into things the students will identify with; a video of Hayes-McGuinness rough-housing with Peter on his last day of school, pictures of him after he came home from break-up day wearing a girl's school blouse, his broad chest almost busting it open.
The joy on his face the day he got his red Nissan Pulsar.
She tells of their last outing, the weekend before the accident, when they went shopping. She tried on a black dress.
He told her she looked "really pretty".
Chuffed by the compliment, she rushed to buy it.

She wore that dress to his memorial service.

A student hugs Melissa McGuinness after her road safety speech. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
A student hugs Melissa McGuinness after her road safety speech. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

She looks out into the sea of young faces and tells them that they know what they shouldn't do when driving. "You know."
Her son knew. He knew it was unacceptable to drive drunk, stoned, too fast.
"But like it or not, [what he did] is a reflection on me, it's a reflection on my husband and it is absolutely a reflection on our parenting."

They'd been so proud of him. They were singing his praises moments before they got the news about the crash.
It was dawn, they were watching the sunrise, drinking tea and talking about how well "Jordy" had taken to his carpentry apprenticeship. How delighted they were that he'd found his niche.
Then the doorbell buzzed.

"I walked down my three flights of stairs and as I rounded that last set of stairs and saw those two forlorn [police] officers through my glass door, my heart sank and my knees gave way," she tells the hushed group.

"I knew from that moment something was drastically wrong. And I knew my life was about to shatter, along with the life of my family." 

The McGuinness family before the crash.
The McGuinness family before the crash.

THE IMPACT OF THE ROAD SAFETY SPEECH

The carpentry student admits he's got into cars with drivers who were drunk and drugged.
Not big drives, he says, just down the road to get home from a party or for food.
"Nothing extravagant, but thinking back now, it's very extravagant, very bad choices."
He's on his learner's. "I'll be driving very safe from now on."

For Gardner, it was the footage of the sobbing Montana at the memorial that "made me cry straight away".
"You don't feel like you're being lectured, you're thinking that you wouldn't want to do that to someone else. We need to be wise about what we do."

It's this feedback that has kept McGuinness walking into schools in Queensland and NSW to talk about her son and his bad choices.
"I'm not driving this, this is driving me," says McGuinness, who has self-funded the time and travel to do the speeches on Fridays, her day off from work as an office manager.
"I'm so compelled to do this because of the response from kids."

Melissa McGuinness: “I’m not driving this, this is driving me.” Picture: Russell Shakespeare.
Melissa McGuinness: “I’m not driving this, this is driving me.” Picture: Russell Shakespeare.

She'd like to see the program in all Australian schools.
The couple has just set up a not-for-profit organisation, You Choose - Youth Road Safety. They've been offered sponsorship which could enable her to devote more time to the work but she is wary of being seen to profit from the tragedy.
"But I can't keep going at this speed while working four days a week. It's really tricky, what do you do when you know you've got something that will make a difference?"

One option is to enlist other parents who have experienced similar horror to give talks in their regions.
Some have been in contact, interested in being involved.
"Sadly," says McGuinness, "there's a lot of parents like me out there."

Kitty comes out of a bedroom to look for something.
She was four when her brother died.
This year, she's school captain of her primary school.
There's a photo of her that McGuinness uses in the presentation; a little girl asleep in one of her big brother's jerseys in the days after the crash.
"They were super close," says McGuinness.
The family talks about Jordy often. The good and the bad. The way his mates would rib him about having to share a bunk bed - a pink one - with Montana.
The way he'd give his Mum a hug and kiss every time he came home.
The way he and Peter would kick the football around on the beach for hours. The way his life ended.

Jordan Hayes-McGuinness on the balcony of his Tugun home.
Jordan Hayes-McGuinness on the balcony of his Tugun home.

And they talk about his victims.
"We think about them, we talk about those families," says McGuinness.
"I'm angry that he did that to those families. Angry at the stupidness. But the sadness, the sadness is just so overwhelming."

A few years ago, she wrote a note under her son's name, called it Jordan's Confession, and put it on Facebook. She hopes the families read it.

"To the families," she wrote on his behalf, "I am so sorry and remorseful for my actions that night. I would ask for your forgiveness but understand it would be all but impossible to give.

What I did was unforgivable.

You will never know just how sorry I am."

 

Bill and Donna Williams, the parents of Tiana, 17, at the inquest.
Bill and Donna Williams, the parents of Tiana, 17, at the inquest.

A LETTER FROM DONNA AND BILL WILLIAMS, THE PARENTS OF TIANA WILLIAMS, 17

 

Our family and the other family members who lost their children that fateful night, have no choice but to try to exist without our children.


We still to this day have never been contacted by Jordan Hayes McGuinness's family.

Tiana was 17 years of age, she had just completed year 12 and had applied to go to university.


We bought her her first car. She was with her first boyfriend of six weeks, who also was killed in the accident that night.


You could say that her life was just about to begin.

We will never forget that phone call from Tiana's older sister, screaming that Tiana had been in an accident, and to hurry and get to the accident.


I kept asking our daughter to find out what hospital Tiana was taken to only to be told that there was only one survivor.


My gut told me then that Tiana had passed. My husband and I arrived at the scene of the accident and were held back by authorities as I walked towards the car my daughter lay dead in.

The memorial at the site of the crash on the Pacific Motorway, near Coomera.
The memorial at the site of the crash on the Pacific Motorway, near Coomera.

We had to suffer online comments which suggested that Jordan wasn't at fault.
We do not support Melissa McGuinness's You Choose - Youth Road Safety program.


It is demonstrated in the videos shared by the You Choose program that Jordan Hayes McGuinness was a "good kid", who made one "stupid choice" that night and that it was "out of character".


Melissa McGuinness says that the choices Jordan made "can't be sugar coated".


In fact, in the Coroner's report, a friend said Jordan regularly drove under the influence of cannabis and drove intoxicated "on a few occasions".

We are frustrated that the background information presented is incomplete and little focus is placed on the other four lives destroyed by Jordan's actions.

We are disappointed that submissions we put forward during the Coroner's inquest for recommended compulsory programs be deployed at schools in the curriculum have not been implemented.

 

Programs should come from professionals, not a grieving parent sharing her story of a "prism of my own grief".
We support existing programs which are well-established, deliver true facts and can provide wider impacts of what your actions can do.


Tiana and the others didn't get to choose.


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