Norfolk siblings are reunited with the Thai woman who helped them after the 2004 tsunami

PUBLISHED: 21:00 21 December 2014 | UPDATED: 21:41 21 December 2014

Louise Willgrass Tsunami Fund Summer Ball at the Norfolk Showground.
 The Willgrass Family, father Nigel with Ben and Emily.

Louise Willgrass Tsunami Fund Summer Ball at the Norfolk Showground. The Willgrass Family, father Nigel with Ben and Emily.

Archant © 2007

The eldest two children of a Norfolk mother who was killed in the 2004 tsunami have made an emotional return to Thailand and been reunited with the Thai woman who helped them in the aftermath of the Boxing Day disaster.

Louise WillgrassLouise Willgrass

Ben and Emily Willgrass, from Colney, near Norwich, were just 14 and 16 when they lost their mother, 43-year-old Louise Willgrass, and an ITV documentary being screened tomorrow evening sees them retrace their steps and return to Thailand almost a decade later.

Their whole family - including their father Nigel and younger siblings Michael and Katie, then nine and seven - had been holidaying in the Thai resort of Phuket when the tragedy happened in 2004.

Mr Willgrass and all four children managed to reach safety but Mrs Willgrass, who had gone to buy some sun cream, was separated from them.

While Mr Willgrass went to search for his wife, a Thai couple called Yupin and Pitchet offered to look after the children, and in tonight’s documentary viewers will see Ben and Emily meet with Yupin and thank her for her kindness on that terrible day.

Speaking to a national newspaper, Ben, now 24, said Yupin felt like a second mother to them.

He said: “It was amazing. Seeing her brought it all back.

“We only spent one night with them but that connection in a time of adversity was so strong and they have always been in our thoughts.”

Ben, who works for his dad’s financial business alongside Emily, described Mrs Willgrass as “the best mum you could ask for” and said on Boxing Day the family will visit her grave and release paper lanterns in her memory.

“We write messages on them to mum, saying we love her,” he said.

“It’s never sad. We’re usually laughing and joking. It’s sending happy messages off to mum.”

About 230,000 people lost their lives in the Boxing Day tsunami, including 155 British people.

Following the disaster, the Louise Willgrass Tsunami Fund was set up and raised about £800,000 to help Thai children affected by the tsunami.

• Tsunami: Survivors’ Stories is on ITV on Monday at 9pm.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Eastern Daily Press. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Eastern Daily Press