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MH17: A mother's hope for the truth
03:48 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Silene Fredriksz's son Bryce, 23, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers, 20, were killed in the MH17 disaster

More than a year after the plane came down in eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, most of the couple's remains are still missing

All 298 passengers and crew on board Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur were killed

Rotterdam, The Netherlands CNN  — 

Silene Fredriksz’s world fell apart when her son and his girlfriend died in the shooting down of MH17. Days after the tragedy the grieving mother begged for someone to “take care of my son and daughter … bring them home.”

But despite her personal plea she got nothing until, months later, workers recovered her son’s foot from the crash site.

Then a handbag, and some of the personal belongings the couple had taken with them on what should have been a sun- and fun-filled holiday were found.

Fifteen long months since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 fell from the skies over Ukraine on July 17, 2014, crashing in pieces in fields near the Russian border, Fredriksz has little more; neither body has been repatriated for the family to mourn over and bury.

Bryce, 23, and Daisy, 20, were bound for Bali, via Kuala Lumpur. They had planned a relaxing holiday to help Daisy recover after the death of her mother, just months before.

Instead their journey came to a premature end near the village of Hrabove in eastern Ukraine.

Fredriksz, who paid for the couple’s flights, says she has been unable to move on since the disaster.

“It’s in your head 24/7. When you wake up it is the first thing you think about: ‘Oh yeah, they are dead.’ And then it starts all over again.”

Anything can set her off, she says. “A thought. A memory. Music,” all trigger a flood of emotions.

Bryce and Daisy were “a bit crazy, fun – just two young, bright people … with their future ahead,” remembers Fredriksz, talking to CNN at her home in Rotterdam. “They were full of plans, wanted to live together, a house of their own.

Shortly after MH17 came down, Fredricksz made an impassioned plea to Vladimir Putin to help make sure the couple’s bodies – and those of everyone else killed on MH17 – were speedily returned to their loved ones.

“Mr. Putin must take care of my son and my daughter,” she told the TV crews gathered at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. “Bring them home.”

Russian-backed rebels have been accused of shooting down the plane – a claim Russia denies.

Frederiksz hadn’t intended to become one of the “faces” of the disaster; she had simply gone to meet her brother and to lay flowers at the shrine which had sprung up there.

“I didn’t like it when I saw the cameras, but then something in my mind changed and I thought, ‘Let the world know; they [need to] know who was killed, and what pain it caused.’

“It’s better to understand and to feel what happened if you see the grief of families. It’s not just the plane it’s people: children, young children, happy people going on holiday.”

At that point, there was little information about what had happened – or what was going on at the crash site, some 1,700 miles away in eastern Ukraine.

“The only thing we knew at that point, [was that] they were in Ukraine,” Frederiksz remembers. “We knew there were complete bodies found but we didn’t know how many.

For days, she says, the families of those on board the plane were left watching from afar while, on the ground in Ukraine, “Nothing happened, nothing happened at all.”

“They were lying in a field there for days, and then the next point was a train and the train was moving and they were kept hostage, the bodies in the train. [It was] horrible, really horrible.”

Even when the bodies began to be repatriated, there was little in the way of closure for Fredriksz and her family.

Ten times, as military planeloads of coffins arrived back in the Netherlands for identification, she went to the airport – hoping, each time that the bodies of her loved ones were inside.

“Every time, I thought that they might come back,” she recalls. “Every car that was in front of me, I thought, ‘In that coffin they may lay.’”

Sadly, for Brice and Daisy’s families, there was to be no easy resolution; more than a year on, only a small proportion of the couple’s remains has been found.

“The first identification of Brice was on September 10 last year,” says Fredriksz, matter-of-factly. “That was only his foot and then we knew we weren’t going to get complete bodies back.

“His foot. Completely burnt. When you hear that, I can’t describe how that feels.”

Some of the couple’s belongings have been recovered over the past 15 months – but many remain missing – and Fredricksz worries that they may have fallen into the wrong hands.

“I found Daisy’s handbag on the database, completely clean and not burned, like it was new,” she says. “The printed tickets were in it, the boarding passes, all clean, like [they] just came out of the printer …

“[But] I know there was more in the bag, like passports. They are gone. I think they were stolen. I don’t know what they [are] doing with [them], criminal activities probably.”

Like many of the relatives of the dead, she still hopes to visit the location of the crash in eastern Ukraine someday; with no “bodies” recovered, she sees the site as their grave, their final resting place.

“We wanted to go this year, but everybody advised not too because it is still too dangerous,” she says. “In the winter you can’t get to the crash site if there is too much snow, so we hope we can go next year.”

Before then, though, comes the release of the final report into the disaster – Fredricksz hopes it will help answer the many questions she has about what happened that JULY day.

“I hope it tells the truth, because that’s what we want to know: What happened? Who did it? Who is responsible? Why was Malaysia Airlines flying over a conflict zone?

“It won’t bring them back but we need to know the truth for ourselves, [and] for the children.”

Until the circumstances of the crash are properly explained, and clear warnings are given, she fears that another MH17-type accident could happen again – soon.

“It could be your child next week … This could happen again. It’s not if, it’s when, because people are crazy, and if they have the weapons, they will use them, we have seen that.”

She says she isn’t expecting a great deal from the report: “My expectations are very low, but I do hope.