"You do not need to be an addict to be devastated by ice. I should know."

Warning: This post contains distressing and occasionally graphic references to the murder of a child.

When Zayden Maxwell Kevin Veal-Whitting was born on July 29 2011, I looked down on my precious boy’s tiny little wrinkled feet and the lightest and fairest of hair. He was perfect.

Many nights I sat and stared at Zayden sleeping peacefully; I was just in awe I had created such beautiful, innocent soul. By the time he was 10 months old, Zayden was still small in stature, but his personality was boisterous. He loved to laugh, smile and play games. He could crawl like a turbo on knees and had almost conquered taking his first few strong steps. He constantly wanted to be with my older son, Xavier; from the moment my two boys met, their bond was nothing short of magical.

Zayden was also my shadow — crawling behind my feet or pulling himself up to see me. I couldn’t have imagined a better, more simple family life.

But this perfect image was shattered June 15th 2012, a day I will never forget; the day my nightmare began. That was the day the drug ‘ice’ (methamphetamine) entered my life, without my consent and without my knowledge.

Casey Veals son Zayden
Zayden Maxwell Kevin Veal-Whitting, who was killed by an ice addict. (Photo: supplied)

That was the day Harley Hicks, a 19-year-old ice addict, committed multiple burglaries and thefts to fuel his addiction.

During one of his robberies — of my house, in Bendigo, Victoria — Hicks, for a reason still and probably forever unknown, brutally murdered my tiny baby son.

He inflicted over 30 injuries with a homemade baton crafted out of copper wire. He made my baby boys’ face almost unrecognisable; never have I seen so much blood.

It is a day that torments me every second of every day.

Zayden was an infant with no drug history in the family; I myself was ignorant to the dangerous of ice when my little boy died. We were an ordinary, suburban Australian family trying to get through each day. Now, we’re now living a nightmare similar to those you see in horror movies.


Related: Casey Veal’s heartbreaking open letter to the little boy she lost.

Earlier this month, Tony Abbott announced a new national taskforce to tackle the drug, after expert evidence showed its use has almost doubled in Australia over the last year.

I congratulate Mr Abbott on his strong ownership of responsibility, and for his acknowledgement we are dealing with an epidemic of this dangerous drug. But what Mr Abbott should also acknowledge is that focusing solely on the legality and criminal outcomes associated with ice use will not stop a rising and frightening problem.

 Rather than focusing on these areas, we need to take a preventative approach.

We need to offer solutions at the beginning of a problem, not only at the end. We need to take a step back and truly look at the living data; the socio-economic factors related to ice use, as well as issues of mental illness and previous trauma. We need to offer support to those that are vulnerable and often isolated.

Currently, regional areas are dying under ice’s influence — yet they have had funding cuts through our regional mental health adolescence programs, and the government offers less than half of what it gives metropolitan areas. That is not good enough.

Casey Veals son Zayden
Casey Veal and her son Zayden. (Photo: Supplied)

We also need to invest money into rehabilitative services, to help stop the addiction before it transforms an early-stage into a stereotypical “junkie”, becoming increasingly become violent and determined in his or her use of ice. Projects such as The Ice Meltdown Project are taking this initiative already — focusing on the individual user, not just dismissing them addicts and nothing else.

Read more: ‘I sat through the trial of my baby’s killer.’

But something I believe deserves even higher priority is education, because ignorance about ice and its effects are contributing to the destruction of our society.

I understand we all fear ice, the violence it can cause and the downward spiral associated with some of its users. But every time to choose to remain ignorant of this problem, we’re assuming it won’t affect us.


What I would like to make clear is this: You do not need to be an addict, or even know one, to be severely affected by ice. I should know. Ice destroys everything and anyone. Its use isn’t just limited to just one type of person, or any particular age group. It is pervasive, and attacks society through crime and abuse, and DHS involvement rises as well as tragedies take their emotional tolls on innocent victims of those crimes.

I, for one, will be forever affected by ice and the violent actions enabled by it.

By hiding this issue and not openly speaking about ice we are allowing the gates of hell to open without even trying to keep guard.

Casey Veals son Zayden
Zayden with his older brother Xavier. (Photo: Supplied)

Honest, open community education is key to changing our attitudes to understand prevention, education and awareness of the real world we live in. We need to have open conversations with our kids, answer their questions; talking within our families.

We need to be open, to talk, and to share ideas about how to support those who need it.

This is why I share Zayden’s story — to provide an innocent, human face as a reminder of the damage caused by his feared and evil drug.

Related content: The documentary about ice that needs to be screened in schools around the country.

I do not wish for another family to feel such a traumatic and violent loss.

Instead, I hope for change.

Zayden amongst all of the other innocent victims of ice deserve that; we as a country deserve it.

My little boy’s beautiful cheeky smile deserves to be remembered. His death must not be in vain; his legacy needs to be one of change.

If you need help, you can contact Family Drug Support on 1300 368 186.

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