Woman’s Day (Australia)


After searching online, Ashleigh uncovered a tragedy and then made a happy discovery


Ashleigh was just seven years old when she was told her father had been murdered. She knew his name, what had happened, where he was buried and was given just one photo of him from a newspaper article.

It’s a photo she’d keep for two decades while she searched for answers, ultimately leading her into the arms of a loving, long-lost family.

David Michael Grant, or Michael as he was known, was killed by his housemate Neville Lees over a rental dispute in 1996.

What his family didn’t know was that Michael, who was 30 at the time, had fathered a child – Ashleigh – three years prior to his death and had largely stayed away from his daughter and her mother Suzanne after the couple had separated.


After discoverin­g when she was younger that Michael had been buried at Sydney’s Macquarie Park Cemetery, Ashleigh visited his grave for the first time in 2018 but was left with even more questions.

“There was a blank spot, no plaque with his name on, and it broke me, so I vowed to save up some money to get him one,” Ashleigh, 29, tells Woman’s Day.

Last year on Father’s Day, Ashleigh returned to his grave to pay her respects but was surprised to discover a newly dedicated plaque with a group of strangers’ names on it.

“There were happy tears

– I was wondering, ‘Who are these people?’” she says.

Ashleigh returned home, armed with her bunch of names and nervously began to reach out to them on social media, desperate to discover who her lost family was.

She soon connected with Cath Grant – Michael’s younger sister – and asked if she was aware of her birth.

“As soon as I read her message, I just knew it was true and we spoke the next day,” Cath, 53, says.

“I can’t describe the hole that was left in my heart when we lost Michael. To now have Ashleigh in our lives, it’s feels like we’ve got a piece of Michael back. She was the best-kept secret.”


Ashleigh and Cath’s first meeting lasted for

11 hours as they flicked through old photo albums, sorted through Michael’s belongings and reminisced about the life they’d missed out on together.

“I wish I could build a time machine and go back. I feel a sense of grief for Ash for the years she missed out on with her dad,” Cath says.

“I’ve imagined what it must have felt like to be in her shoes – the loneliness she felt, wanting answers to questions, longing for a family who had no idea [she existed].”

Cath, an artist, has been ‘walking on sunshine’ after learning about Ashleigh, a psychologi­st, and has been collating photos and messages from Michael’s friends to share with her new niece.

“It’s so nice having all these new doors opening but it’s also really hard to take on how wonderful everyone says he was,” Ashleigh says. “I’ve felt his disappeara­nce every Father’s Day, every time my friends went to their soccer games and their dads stood on the sideline.”

‘We will spend the rest of our lives making up for lost time’


Both avid soccer players with bright blonde hair, cheeky grins and a shared love of cars, as it turns out, Ashleigh and Michael have much in common – and she now feels closer to her dad.

“I’m now living for my dad – that’s my motto,” she smiles.

Ashleigh has begun the process of meeting her long-lost family and was recently introduced to her ‘new’ cousins – Ella, Joshua and Thomas.

“I know Michael is smiling down at us and is able to be at peace knowing we have found each other,” Cath says.

“We will spend the rest of our lives making up for lost time.”

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 ?? ?? Cath and Michael had a special bond growing up.
Cath and Michael had a special bond growing up.
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