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Family's relief Brooklyn Colbert's mum says ‘not being able to say his name was like he never existed’

  • He was just full of fun and full of love, full of laughs, you’d always have a belly-laugh everyday with him’

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Brooklyn Colbert (11), who was beaten and stabbed to death by his half uncle Patrick Dillon in 2019. Photo David Raleigh

Brooklyn Colbert (11), who was beaten and stabbed to death by his half uncle Patrick Dillon in 2019. Photo David Raleigh

Brooklyn Colbert (11), who was beaten and stabbed to death by his half uncle Patrick Dillon in 2019. Photo David Raleigh

Brooklyn Colbert was the apple of his parents’ eyes, but their whole world crumbled when the 11-year-old was stabbed and beaten to death by his half uncle, in 2019.

Brooklyn’s mother, Sonia Aylmer, said Section 252 of the Children Act 2001, which had prevented her from naming her beloved murdered son for the past eight months, served to only compound her grief.

“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?” said Ms Aylmer.

Patrick Dillon (27) admitted stabbing Brooklyn 27 times, and was sentenced last February to the mandatory term of life in prison after he pleaded guilty to murder. However, Brooklyn could not be named due to the legal position at the time.

Ms Aylmer said it was “difficult enough” attending Dillon’s sentencing hearing and reading out a victim impact statement.

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Sonia Aylmer

Sonia Aylmer

Sonia Aylmer

However, learning she would not be able to identify Brooklyn after Dillon was jailed, was even harder. “That was a big shock and a big disappointment and since that day I’ve been fighting to change that law.”

Ms Aylmer said she felt a court order preventing the identification of parties in the case, served only to protect Patrick Dillon, and that in her opinion it 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 (Dillon’s) favour, and that he was the only one being protected, it caused me a lot of stress,” she said.

“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 campaigned for the amendment to the Children Act on behalf of all parents who have lost children in similar circumstances.

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“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.

“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.”

The mother and son shared an incredibly close bond, joining a local boxing club, participating in the Great Limerick Run, enjoying movie nights in, and attending 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.”

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.”

When she is ready to do so, she plans to organise a support group for families going through and who will suffer similar loss.

Her first Christmas without Brooklyn was terribly hard and she had “no one to reach out to” but she later found solace in meeting others in similar positions.

“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 Justice Minister Helen McEntee to push for the amendment to Section 252 of the Children Act allowing the identification of children murdered in the State.

“God forbid this happens to someone else, I’d like to be able 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.

“Some days I tell myself he is in his dad’s house or his nana’s house, because it makes it that bit easier.

The Children Act amendment has come as “a huge relief”.

“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.

“Brooklyn never made people angry or upset people, so that’s why I am so confused as to why this happened him. I don't know how anybody could do anything wrong to a child but to do something to someone who was so loveable and who’s in your life for so long, was evil,” she said.

She said Brooklyn and herself “went for meals and drives” with Dillon, and he would “come over and play the PlayStation with Brooklyn. They’d be slagging one another about soccer teams”.

Ms Aylmer revealed that 24 hours prior to murdering Brooklyn, Dillon spent the entire day with them.

“He was with us the night before. All day he was with us, we went for a meal and we dropped him home about midnight and he asked could Brooklyn help him clean out a shed (the following day).

“Brooklyn went over and had met members of my family a few minutes before he went into this house where this happened, and there was no fear in Brooklyn then and he was happy out, eating sweets, and I just still can’t get my head around it.”

Dillon, with an address at Dalgaish Park, Moyross, struck Brooklyn with a hammer and stabbed him 27 times in the torso, arms and neck in a relative’s house on November 3, 2019.

Dillon walked into Henry Street Garda station and told gardaí: “I’ve killed my nephew.”

He told gardaí a voice in his head told him to stab Brooklyn.

During his sentencing hearing, Mr Justice Michael White said Dillon was guilty of a “horrific breach of trust” and an “unspeakable violent crime”.

In a victim impact statement, Brooklyn’s father Wayne Colbert said: “Other innocent children are safer with the perpetrator of this horrific crime behind bars.”

Dillon wrote a letter of apology, however in response to this, Ms Aylmer said: “I don't feel like he has any remorse. I don’t know why or how anyone could do something so evil, I’ll never be able to understand it.”

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