It was said that Australia changed that day too, after what was dubbed the most savage and depraved crime New South Wales had ever seen.
The beautiful 26-year-old nurse was abducted while walking home, raped by five monstrous criminals and then killed.
Ms Szyszka knows too well the trauma that lingers long after a loved one is murdered.
It’s why she and her parents, Grace and Garry Lynch, became so involved with the Homicide Victims’ Support Group (HVSG).
“Some horrible things that happen in life, you can come to terms with, but something like this is different,” Ms Szyszka said.
“For me, it was a terrible sense of loss under the most horrific circumstances. When someone dies at the hands of someone else, you can never find total peace. You just learn to go on.”
Her mother’s way of coping was to try to make something good out of something so unspeakably horrific.
And today, that legacy was cemented.
The NSW Government made an election commitment of $3.3 million to construct Grace’s Place, a world-first residential trauma centre for children affected by homicide.
“I wish there wasn’t a need for this type of centre in our community,” police minister Troy Grant said today.
“But the unfortunate reality does exist, and the work that the HVSG has done since its launch has been incredible for those left behind in the horrific aftermath of homicide.
“I’m proud to throw our support behind Grace’s Place — the first support centre of its kind — to help those who have lost a loved one under the very worst of circumstances.”
Ms Szyszka, now 53, said the group has been working since early 2016 to make the idea a reality and said today she felt “elated”.
And unfortunately, Grace’s Place couldn’t come soon enough.
“We could fill it now. The HVSG has kids lined up who could benefit from it right now.”
The centre, which it’s hoped will launch in mid-2021, will be based at Doonside in Sydney’s west and will give traumatised children a safe place where they can start to heal, while also supporting their parents and other loved ones as they begin a painful journey of recovery.
HVSG Executive Director Martha Jabour said a specialised centre for children touched by homicide was essential.
“Our hope is that it will help children reconnect, and therefore reduce the likelihood of these terrible incidents dictating their future and leading to other forms of violence in adulthood,” Ms Jabour said.
Grace’s Place will cater for children aged 3-18, and will house up to 12 children and their carers at any one time, as well as being used for other support services on a daily basis.
Ms Szyszka was 21 when her sister Anita was killed.
The HVSG was founded in 1993 by Anita’s parents, along with Christine and Peter Simpson, whose nine-year-old daughter Ebony was murdered.
Like too many, Ms Szyszka has found enormous support via the HVSG, which she described as a “family”.
“Having a wonderful group of people who you can share common experiences with, even the unspoken things, the general sense that people know what you’re going through, makes such a difference,” she said.
“We try to lift each other up in whatever way we can.
“Mum and dad were always about trying to turn this tragic, awful situation into something positive, trying to get some good out of it. It helped them to move forward.
“I know she would’ve been thrilled today.”
A building committee made up of experts has been working on the project, many on a pro-bono basis, she said.
“The builder is ready to get going. It’s all systems go now.”
Find out more about the work of the Homicide Victims’ Support Group at their website
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