By Alex Eliseev

Karen Matthews refuses to let her sister Leigh's cold-blooded killer, Donovan Moodley, ruin her life.

She has decided to train as a trauma counsellor and has volunteered to work at the Leigh Matthews Trauma Centre, which will be launched next Wednesday.

Karen wants to help other families to overcome devastating tragedies.

"I refuse to let him ruin our lives," she said on Monday. "We will carry on."

The Leigh Matthews Trauma Centre in Johannesburg will offer affordable counselling to people who could otherwise not afford it.

The project is the first initiative funded by the Leigh Matthews Trust, formed shortly after the kidnapping and murder of the blonde Sandton student last year. The trust has so far raised about R200 000.

"I miss my sister so much," Karen said. "I would do anything to get her back - but I know she has gone to a better place."

Karen, who turned 23 in June, said she and Leigh had planned to move in together next year and travel overseas.

"We were meant to do family things. It's sore... knowing that those things are not going to happen."

But the opening of the centre, she said, had brought new hope and a sense of purpose for her and her family.

She said the toughest time was lying in bed late at night, where she thought about her sister and worried about her last moments.

"I hope she wasn't scared," said Karen, adding that she tried not to think about Moodley, who was last week sentenced to life for kidnapping and killing her sister.

"But sometimes I get angry. I think: 'You absolute bastard, how could you do this?' "

The centre will be managed by a group of about 12 professionals, including Dr Tessa van Wijk, a renowned trauma counselling expert.

According to Tanya Hall, a member of the managing committee, Medicover has donated R100 000 to the operational costs of the centre.

Hall, who is married to the first investigating officer of Leigh's case, Inspector Gabriel Hall, said the centre would offer free or cheap counselling.

It is located on the premises of the Metropolitan-Raucall Secondary School in Crosby.

"It will cater for people who have lived through domestic violence, rape and poverty," Hall said. "It will also offer counselling to police officers."

Hall said the centre would be run by volunteers, including university students, and overseen by the managing committee. Negotiations are also under way with the University of Johannesburg to support the project.

Leigh's parents, Rob and Sharon, will also be part of the management team, and Sharon is considering volunteering as a counsellor.

Rob Matthews said the centre had given his family something to focus on and was "part of our healing".