Brooklyn Colbert (11) was the apple of his parents’ eyes, but their whole worlds crumbled when Brooklyn was stabbed and beaten to death by his half uncle, Paddy Dillon, in 2019.
Brooklyn’s mother, Sonia Aylmer, said Section 252 of the Childrens Act 2001, which had prevented her from naming her beloved murdered son for the past eight months, served to only compound her grief.
Despite a change in the law last week, allowing children to be named in such circumstances, reporting restrictions in Brooklyn’s case had remained in place until they were lifted this morning at the Central Criminal Court, following an application by RTÉ.
“It was like I lost Brooklyn all over again, not being able to speak his name. In fact, it was like he never existed. Why should Brooklyn be hidden from the world? There was so much in my little boy, why should he not be remembered?” Ms Aylmer said.
Patrick Dillon admitted stabbing Brooklyn 27 times, and striking him with a hammer.
Dillon, (28), from Moyross, Limerick, was sentenced last February to the mandatory term of life in prison after he pleaded guilty to murder.
Ms Aylmer said it was “difficult enough” attending last February’s sentencing hearing, and reading out a victim impact statement, however she added, learning she would not be able to identify Brooklyn after Dillon was jailed, was hard to swallow: “That was a big shock and a big disappointment and since that day I was fighting to change that law.”
Ms Aylmer said she felt the court gagging order which prevented her speaking publicly about her “beautiful boy”, served only to protect Patrick Dillon.
She said, in her opinion, the order did nothing to protect her dead son: “It put a lot of anger in me, and I felt disappointment in the justice system. I felt no support and I felt everything was going in Paddy Dillon’s favour, and that he was the only one being protected.”
“It caused me a lot of stress.”
“When I left the court I wasn’t able to say Brooklyn’s name, or even speak about him. I felt like I had to hide my face as if I had done something wrong, as if I committed a crime.”
Ms Aylmer had campaigned for the amendment to the Children’s Act along with other parents who lost their children in similar circumstances: “There’s lots of parents like me, that are dealing with the same thing, and that were not able to speak about their children, it’s heartbreaking.”
Ms Aylmer said she wanted to speak publicly about Brooklyn in order to “keep his memory alive”.
“I am his voice, and as long as I am alive there is a part of him alive. I want to carry on his legacy, helping people in my situation.”
“Brooklyn was a very placid child, very fun-loving and he would get into mischief, but he was funny, everyone that met him instantly liked him, he just had that aura about him”.
Mother and son shared an incredibly close bond, together they joined a boxing club, participated in the annual Great Limerick Run, enjoyed movie nights in, and attended keep-fit classes together: “We had a beautiful relationship. Brooklyn was also a very good friend, a good neighbour, protective and kind.”
“He really left a lasting impression on everyone he met. He was just full of fun and full of love, full of laughs, you’d always have a belly-laugh everyday with him.”
When she is ready to do so, she plans to organise a support group for families going through and who will go suffer similar loss.
Her “first Christmas without Brooklyn was terribly hard and I had no one to reach out to” but she later found solace in meeting Kathleen Chada, whose husband Sanjeev murdered their two sons Eoghan (10), Ruairi (5), on July 29, 2013.
“That’s why it’s very important for other parents to know there is help out there, and that’s why it’s so important our stories are not anonymised.”
She praised Support After Homicide, a national voluntary group which also wrote to the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, to push for the amendment to Section 252 of the Children’s Act, allowing the identification of children murdered in the State.
"God forbid this happens to someone else, I’d like to be bale to talk other parents through what they are going to be facing.“
Her son’s murder two and half years ago is obviously still “very, very hard” to comprehend.
“Somedays I tell myself he is in his Dad’s house or his Nana’s house, because it makes it that bit easier.”
Speaking about Brooklyn publicly is “a huge relief”, she said. “This interview is for Brooklyn. He liked helping people and he loved to see people happy, and he would love that I would be helping people in his memory, he’d be really happy about that.”