THE family of Shandee Blackburn has spent six and a half years in emotional limbo unable to properly grieve as they wait for the truth to come out about what happened the night she was killed.
Now they are just days away from a coronial inquest, which they hope will give them the answers they need.
But the heartbreaking details of her death were always only "a moment or a thought away" for her mother Vicki Blackburn.
"It's just there waiting to bring you down all over again," she said.
"That knock on the door (by police), the words they spoke and the realisation of what happened."
It had been a typical Friday night for the vivacious 23 year old.
After finishing a shift at Harrup Park Country Club on February 8 in 2013, she had left at 11.58pm intending to walk home as her usual lift was not available.
Her route along Juliet Street to her home on Boddington Street took about 15 or 16 minutes.
CCTV footage captured the hospitality worker walking past Mercy College and then again at the Juliet and Evan St intersection.
A private security camera at 18 Juliet St also spotted Shandee but she disappeared from view as she neared Boddington St and the safety of her home.
She never made it - instead Shandee was found about 12.20am lying in the gutter stabbed multiple times.
"I can't think about it," her sister Shannah Blackburn said.
"It's just too hurtful some days.
"Only two days ago I woke up and it just hit me that my sister was dead and it hit me like a freight train.
"I have to stop there, I can't allow myself to go any further ... and it's heartbreaking because we can't do anything about that, we can't do anything for her."
The circumstances surrounding Shandee's death remain unknown to the wider Mackay community - a fact that weighs heavily on those who knew and loved her best.
Shandee was fun, cheeky, adventurous and with a very quick wit.
Memories of her being born, as a toddler, through the primary and high school years and even her darker times play on a constant loop for Vicki and Shannah.
"She was my weirdness buddy. My ally in life. My movie companion. That's something I don't have, I'll never have again," Shannah said.
In the months before her death, after she had moved back to Mackay, Vicki said Shandee had been comfortable in her skin and had learned to love who she was.
"We had quite a few conversations in those months. I think she came to realise that all the things that had been tormenting her weren't her fault," Vicki said.
It was about 4am when the police knocked on Vicki's door on February 9 with the devastating news her youngest daughter was dead.
At that moment her life would never be the same again. Her world crumbled.
"They tell you this and that they'll be in touch and then you're alone ... what do you do?" she said.
"So we waited."
Since that moment Vicki said she had not woken up on any day and felt good.
So she and Shannah have learned to have things in place to look forward to and to turn painful dates into memories honouring Shandee.
"If we can put something in place that we're doing for Shandee, that gives us meaning," she said.
"We can have a laugh and hopefully she's having a laugh as well."
While the impact of Shandee's death is still felt by the Mackay community, Vicki said they were just one family going through this incomprehensible horror and trying to stay strong.
"There are many out there going through the same or similar journey. This includes those people who were exposed to the horror ... those who stayed by her side," she said.
"They cannot just unsee what they saw, they cannot just forget.
"When a tragedy occurs it is in the spotlight for a time then it goes away." But for loved ones like Vicki and Shannah it never goes away.
"When people see us and our story, I want them to remember we are only one. And one day our story will be silenced too, but our silence will still hold all the horror and pain and damage of those few minutes Shandee fought for her life," Vicki said.
For six and a half years her family has been at the mercy of the justice system with no control over how Shandee's story will pan out.
"We're still here six and a half years later wondering, holding out for a resolution or holding onto fear of where this is going to go next," Shannah said. "And the sad thing about that is we did nothing wrong."
And for six and a half years Vicki said she has not been able to properly grieve for her daughter while the case continues to play out with no ending in sight.
"(It's) a long time to be tied up and invested in this after what we've been through," she said.
Rather than being able to feel the full extent of their loss, Vicki and Shannah have been distracted by their ongoing quest for justice.
"We're doing this for Shandee but right now we don't feel effective at all," Vicki said.
Outwardly they are stoic, drawing strength from each other but Vicki said as the date of the inquest drew closer she could feel her emotions bubbling over.
"So much relies on this next step. It's big for us and again it's totally alien, we have no idea what to expect. Every day is full of anxiety for us," she said.
"I have been thinking of how everyone tells us how strong we are. I feel that is to some degree because we have been as open as we can be about our feelings, the case, also what we do to remember and honour Shandee.
"I don't think we believe we are strong because we are just always trying to keep going and keep living."
Next week the Daily Mercury will take a closer look at the case to date and what Shandee's family hopes will come from the two-week coronial inquest.
TIMELINE - SHANDEE'S STORY SO FAR
FEBRUARY 9, 2013: Shandee Blackburn begins her walk from Harrup Park Country Club at midnight.
FEBRUARY 9: The 23-year-old is stabbed to death on Boddington St, just a few hundred metres from her home about 12.20am.
FEBRUARY 11: Shandee's mother Vicki and sister Shannah Blackburn bravely face the media for the first time to make an emotional plea for anyone with information about the attack to come forward.
FEBRUARY 12: Police release CCTV footage of the McDonald's drive-through about the time Shandee was murdered, and urge those filmed to call Crime Stoppers.
FEBRUARY 15: The first Walk for Shandee is held. Hundreds turned out to walk the 1.5km from Harrup Park to Boddington St.
FEBRUARY 18: Shandee is laid to rest at a funeral attended by hundreds.
FEBRUARY 19: The boss of the state homicide squad flies to Mackay to head up the murder investigation.
MARCH 18, 2014: Police offer a $250,000 reward for information leading to the identification and conviction of a killer
AUGUST: A memorial walkway with a garden, lights and an allocated place for flowers is built between Boddington St and Hamlet St to honour Shandee.
SEPTEMBER 4: John Peros is arrested in Brisbane over the murder of Shandee.
SEPTEMBER 5: Mr Peros, an amateur boxer, fronts court for the first time in Brisbane.
FEBRUARY: Committal hearing in Mackay Magistrates Court, which heard from multiple witnesses in the case against Mr Peros. He was committed to stand trial for murder in the Supreme Court.
MARCH 22: The two-week Supreme Court murder trial against John Peros begins. He was ultimately acquitted by the jury.
DECEMBER: A coronial inquest into the death of Shandee Blackburn is announced.
JULY 1: The inquest will begin.