Be brave, be careful, leave and don’t go back: grieving mum
TWELVE years after she was forced to walk down a cold corridor and identify the broken body of her only daughter, Ligita Sternbergs is no less angry.
Art classes, the company of true friends and her loyal dog Joey provide brief escapes from her grief but the daughter she lost to the hands of a hit man is never far from her thoughts.
Ligita has a picture of her daughter in her mind that is as clear as if she had just spent time with her.
A song, or the sight of a stranger who bears some resemblance, triggers emotions so raw, she could still be standing behind a glass window at the Hervey Bay Hospital morgue, nodding to the officer that the thick blonde mop of hair soaked in blood was Ingrid's.
It is this daily struggle, Ligita wishes she could capture and expose young partygoers to, in an effort to get them to think twice before resorting to violence.
In Ingrid's case, she was pursued by an evil criminal, but Ligita is supporting the Chronicle's #HandsOff campaign in the hope those who would otherwise live normal lives but for a bad choice, can be encouraged to stop and think.
"In reality there is probably not a lot that is going to stop people when they have been drinking but if it saves one life, it's worth it," Ligita said.
"If they could understand the pain of losing a child... then maybe they wouldn't do it.
"It's really not much different then it was back then... the same pain stays with you."
Torturing herself with agonising "what ifs", Ligita still questions whether she could have done something to protect her daughter from the wrath of the Ingrid's estranged husband Jim, who remains in prison for agreeing to pay troubled man Michael Kinsella to stab Ingrid to death in her Pialba home.
Like many women suffering violence at home, Ingrid did not speak up.
Bruises and other injuries were explained away by accidents and when Ligita noticed a hole in the wall of her home, Ingrid made out she and her husband had been "play fighting".
It was only when Ingrid found the courage to leave Jim that she admitted to her mother that she was in fear of her life, and then made the fateful mistake of going back.
"If women have this in their lives, they need to know it could kill them," Ligita said
"Be very brave, be very careful, but leave and don't go back.
"Ingrid made the mistake of going back."
Jim Lester and Michael Kinsella are both serving a minimum of 15 years in jail.
Kinsella never received the $10,000 he was offered in exchange for stabbing Ingrid more than 40 times.
Ingrid had two sons.
Floral tributes will be laid at her memorial at the Hervey Bay Crematorium today.
Copies of Ligita's book To the Bitter End, are available via Margaret Marlow's Facebook page.
- For counselling and support, phone the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 811 811