Sunderland mum’s 12-year fight to find daughter’s killer

Christine Brockbanks - back home in Sunderland.
Christine Brockbanks - back home in Sunderland.
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A MUM who spent 12 years in South Africa battling to bring her daughter’s killer to justice has finally returned home.

But Christine Brockbanks today told the Echo she would “never give up” the fight to find the murderer.

Murder victim Leslie Van Zyl who spent her childhood in Sunderland before emigrating to South Africa with her family

Murder victim Leslie Van Zyl who spent her childhood in Sunderland before emigrating to South Africa with her family

Speaking after flying back to Wearside, Christine, 62, told how she has tirelessly campaigned to find the man who killed daughter Leslie Van Zyl in a South African hotel room in August 2000.

“Even though I’ve come back to Sunderland, the South African police have promised they will update me with any new leads in the investigation,” said Christine, now living in Pallion.

Leslie was murdered in George, 250 miles east of Cape Town.

The former pupil at High Barnes Junior School was found strangled and with multiple stab wounds while on a business trip for insurance firm Liberty Life. She was just 26.

Christine moved to the country in 1981 with her late husband Arthur, Leslie and son Paul, now 33.

Originally from Queen’s Crescent, High Barnes, the family had settled in the country where Leslie went on to marry. She had no children, and she was a regular traveller, holding down an executive position.

The family remain convinced she knew her killer. The murderer left behind a string of valuables, including Leslie’s gold jewellery, an expensive laptop computer and a mobile phone.

Despite a full investigation, the attacker was never found and the case was given an “unsolved” murder tag.

Christine and Arthur, who died five years ago, devoted their time to finding their daughter’s killer, desperately hoping that one day someone would come forward with that vital piece of evidence.”

The family even hired their own private investigator to look into the death.

Now remarried, Christine has just moved back to Sunderland and is living with her brother, Stephen Flood.

She said: “Before we left, we were in touch with the police, and they know they must get in touch with me if something happens.

“This isn’t the end of it, and just because I’m back in Sunderland doesn’t mean the fight doesn’t go on. I will never give up.”

Christine is in touch with a journalist working for the George Herald in South Africa, who is working to keep Leslie’s case in the public eye.

Christine added: “This case has not been put to bed.”

However, speaking about returning home to Wearside, Christine says it is time for a new chapter in her life.

“It’s wonderful to be back,” she adds. “I feel incredibly safe here.

“You can go out walking after 8pm, and you don’t have to think about putting up your car windows when you stop at traffic lights.

“The people are fabulous, and it just feels so right to be back home.”

But the fresh start remains tinged with an air of sadness.

Christine added: “Leslie would have been 42 this year, and I will always wonder what might have been.”

Twitter: @craigjourno