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Bristol student graduates two years after her mum and brother were tragically murdered

‘To graduate with my friends today has been very emotional’

Lydia Wilkinson has overcome the odds to graduate with a 2.1 in Biological Sciences, just two years after tragically losing her mum, Tracey, and brother, Pierce.

In first year, the 21-year-old was in halls when she was informed both her mother and her brother had been fatally stabbed by a homeless man named Aaron Barley. Lydia’s father, Peter, was also stabbed multiple times, but made a miraculous recovery and was able to watch his daughter’s graduation this July.

Barley knew the family well, and had been the recipient of incredible kindness from the Wilkinson family.

In September 2016, Lydia's mother saw Aaron outside a supermarket, lying in a cardboard box. She took pity on him, welcomed him into their family home and provided him with food and accommodation. Peter gave him a labouring job, but eventually he was forced to sack Barley on account of his drug use.

Barley even spent one Christmas with the Wilkinsons, addressing a card to Tracey: “To the mother that I never had.”

Jailing Barley for 30 years, Mrs Justice Carr described the double murder as a “vicious and unprovoked attack.”

Addressing Barley, the judge said: “You abused your knowledge of the family home, which you had only gained through the Wilkinsons’ extraordinary kindness and generosity to you. Mrs Wilkinson and Pierce, only 13, were in bed at home, where they were entitled to feel, and should have been, safe.”

Lydia told Barley: “I will never forgive you. My parents helped you- you repaid them with destruction, and heartache. You have obliterated my life, murdered half my family, very nearly all [of] it.”

Over two years on, Lydia has triumphantly overcome this traumatic experience to graduate from the University of Bristol.

Lydia said: "I did consider taking a year out of university when everything happened. There was so much press intrusion and court proceedings that focusing on my studies was difficult.

“But the university supported me every step of the was which allowed me to continue with my degree. To graduate with my friends today has been very emotional.

“Focusing on my studies provided a huge distraction and sense of stability for me. I also wanted to complete my degree for my mum- she was very proud that I had been accepted into Bristol, which also provided a great source of motivation.”

Along the way, Lydia also raised £17,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital by running the Birmingham half marathon. The hospital holds a personal significance to Lydia as it was there that doctors successfully performed open heart surgery on her brother when he was just five years old, as well as being the place where he was treated following the attack.

In recognition of her achievements, Lydia has been nominated for a Pride of Britain award. She will also return to Bristol in September to pursue a Masters in Biological Sciences.