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Tragedy piled on tragedy for Kelly family

 For the 55 new students entering St Paul’s in 2016, university life began on February 22.

Students and their parents attended the traditional Freshers Dinner at Australia’s oldest university residential college, before students spent their first night at the college.

Stuart Kelly laid to rest

The brother of one-punch victim Thomas Kelly was farewelled by family and friends at The King’s School in Sydney on Thursday. Vision courtesy ABC

Stuart Kelly, who had won a scholarship, spent less than 24 hours at St Pauls.

It remained a mystery to his parents Ralph and Kathy Kelly why Stuart returned home the next day and vowed never to return. He became withdrawn. Eventually, he decided if he was to continue his education it would need to be overseas, where he could start afresh.

There is no neat explanation for what happened to Stuart. Those who came into contact with the family know that Ralph and Kathy Kelly did their best to support their son over the next six months, and saw the protective wing they drew around their children.

But the context and timing was of a brave young man starting university in the same week that his family first came under sustained attack on social media by campaigners who opposed the lockout laws, which his family were very much associated with.

The family had established the Thomas Kelly Foundation after his brother was killed in a one-punch attack. Stuart had stood up at a gala dinner of 700 people last year to speak in support of the reforms, recalling how Thomas’s life support was turned off.

He told the crowd, including NSW Premier Mike Baird, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and lord mayor Clover Moore: “I carry a deep scar that you cannot see. It’s always there, it never leaves. It sits below the surface of your skin and surfaces when you least expect it.”

A mother's farewell: Kathy Kelly blows a kiss to her son Stuart Kelly's coffin.
A mother’s farewell: Kathy Kelly blows a kiss to her son Stuart Kelly’s coffin. Photo: Janie Barrett

Stuart displayed stoicism and composure beyond his years that night and appealed to Mr Baird and the community to combat Australia’s drug and alcohol abuse problem.

The day before Stuart started at university, thousands of anti-lockout protesters marched through the streets of Sydney. It dominated social media where figures associated with the lockouts were attacked, from Mike Baird, to St Vincents and the Kellys.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hugs Kathy Kelly at her son Stuart Kelly's funeral.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hugs Kathy Kelly at her son Stuart Kelly’s funeral. Photo: Janie Barrett

Three days earlier, an anonymous blog had made wild and false accusations that Ralph Kelly was profiting from the Thomas Kelly Foundation set up to push for safer streets for young people. It ridiculed Stuart’s passionate and heart felt speech in support of the Thomas Kelly Foundation’s work, and his mother.

A string of websites associated with the Kelly family came under attack that weekend from more anonymous trolls, and the websites were shut down. The Daily Telegraph published the claims – denied by Ralph Kelly – on Monday February 22.

To the Kellys, it felt as though Sydney had turned on them.

The social media attacks ebbed away.

In the months that followed, Stuart reconnected with his school community, taking on a coaching role for the King’s School rugby team.

The memorial for Stuart was told by his former teacher at King’s that the University of Buckingham had decided to accept him as a student.

Reverend Stephen Edwards told the gathered family and friends that Stuart’s “tragic decision to end his life” was an anguish for all of them.

“We thought Stuart was travelling OK and that’s what makes what has happened so much harder to understand.”

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Mensline 1300 789 978;

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800;

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