The Abdallah Tragedy

The Abdallah Tragedy

The 1st February 2020 was a truly fateful day for the Abdallahs, a Lebanese Maronite Christian family from Sydney. Four of their young children were out with their cousins, off to the local shops to buy ice creams. Samuel Davidson, a drunken and drug-affected driver, lost control of his vehicle, mounted the kerb and drove over the seven children innocently walking on the Oatlands footpath.

Danny and Leila Abdallah heard the sirens and ran to the horrific scene. Three of their children, Antony (13), Angelina (12) and Sienna (8) lay dead on the path. Veronique Sakr (11), their cousin, was also killed. Liana Abdallah and cousin Charbel Kassas (11) were injured.

What they saw sent Danny and Leila into deep shock. Danny tried desperately to revive the children, but to no avail, they were gone. He said, “Something happened there bigger than me and Leila. So, I surrendered to God. I said, ‘Lord, this is something bigger than me. You are in control.'”

When Leila saw her children’s mutilated bodies she started praying the Lord’s Prayer as she was unable to accept what her eyes were seeing. Later at the hospital the medical staff told her that her children had passed away. Her immediate reaction was to scream, “No, it’s not true!” as she turned to Danny, yelling, “Please do something!”

Danny and Leila had always taught their children to pray and to forgive. Now they faced the greatest test of their lives. The news reporters approached the grief-stricken couple for comment; Leila was distraught, but calmly said, “I can’t hate him [referring to the driver]. I think in my heart I forgive him. I just want the courts to be fair.” 

From that moment their lives had changed. Three of their six children had departed this world, and their deep grief continues. Tears are a part of every day, but they have held to their resolve to forgive the driver. They bear him no grudge for they put the words of the Lord’s Prayer into action, “ … as we forgive others.”

“It is not easy, with some days better than others. Sometimes the grief overwhelms me and I just can’t function,” says Danny. They realise their pain will be a lifelong burden. But they have taken their stand … they have forgiven.



The Sakr Family

 At the time of that awful tragedy, Danny called his cousin Bridget Sakr, whose daughter Veronique had been killed along with the three Abdallah children.                     

Bridget answered the phone, asking, “Is everything okay?”

He shouted, “Bridget, I’ve lost my children!” She thought he meant that he couldn’t find them.

“They’re dead!” he said … “They’re dead!”

Bridget screamed back, “What about Veronique?”

Danny said, “Bridget, you must come now!”

Her husband, Craig, had to carry her down the stairs, as Danny’s words had sapped her strength. When they arrived at the scene the police refused to let her see her daughter. She screamed out, “I’m her Mum!”

Craig soon confirmed that Veronique had passed away with three of her beloved cousins.

 As one would expect, Bridget found it difficult to comprehend the enormity of her loss, as Veronique was her only daughter. Over the next month or so, amidst making funeral arrangements she had no time to process her grief because of the comings and goings of mourners (family and friends).

In the aftermath, she had more time to focus upon that dreadful day. She found herself asking God to be merciful to Samuel Davidson who had taken her daughter’s life. She thought about him sitting in a jail cell and prayed for his salvation. Throughout the ensuing weeks she prayerfully forgave the driver and processed her forgiveness from one of simple obedience to Jesus’ command into a heartfelt reality. She too had forgiven.


To view Channel 7’s powerful account from the affected families of what happened on that ill fated day:

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Danny Meets the Driver

The genuine forgiveness shown by Danny, Leila and Bridget was acknowledged by the world’s press as a truly remarkable example for us all to aspire to. But Danny was desiring something more; he wanted to meet the man who had so drastically changed his life.

In Sydney that year, a Maronite priest was routinely tending to the needs of some homeless men in Sydney. One of these men committed a crime and was sent to Cessnock Prison to serve out his sentence. His cellmate was Samuel Davidson, the driver of the vehicle on that ill-fated day!

The priest visited the homeless man in jail, showing him the path of life in Jesus. Samuel Davidson requested a visit from the priest as he too wanted to become a Christian. Samuel told the priest that he hoped to meet Danny one day.

Unbeknown to him at the time, the priest regularly counselled Danny and Leila in their grief and said he would ask Danny if he would be willing to meet.

Both Danny and Samuel had to submit to a process of rigorous interrogation by the Restorative Justice Tribunal to determine their motives in wanting to meet. In the end, the meeting was approved, and in August 2023, Danny drove from Sydney to Cessnock Prison.                                                             

He was told to wait in the prison chapel. Danny was nervous, wondering if the encounter would go well. Samuel was taken to the chapel by the prison warders. Danny turned to look at him for the first time since the sentencing trial. Samuel walked to Danny and threw himself down at his knees, weeping and saying, “I’ve ruined your life … I’ve ruined your life! I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. I pray for you, and Leila, and your children daily.” And he named each of the children by name.

By this time, Danny was weeping too and lifted Samuel to his feet where they stood embracing in brotherly love, only possible in God’s wonderful Spirit of love.

“Why did you become a Christian?” asked Danny.

“Because I wanted what you have,” he replied.

“Well!” said Danny. “We have a united purpose in life now … to go around together and teach others about God’s forgiveness and His amazing love.”


Excerpt from When Angry Hearts Forgive by Robert Warren