My mum lost her husband at the age of 44 and my younger brother and I our father at the ages of 15 and 13.
He was attacked on April 22, 2014 and passed on the 23rd, after my mum had to make the decision to turn the machine off that was operating the heart to beat.
My dad used to work up in London from Mondays to Thursdays, before coming home to us in Dorset for the weekends. These were always the happiest days of the week; when the family was all together and we would take our two dogs for long walks and have Sunday family lunches.
The night of the attack my dad was in his usual restaurant, where he would rent a flat for the week. He used his local nights there to wind down after work and was quite popular, knowing the entire bar staff having been a regular for several years.
However, on that night of the 22nd, my dad was attacked by a man who was from another area of London. I will omit names, as I have no wish to give the power of a name to the man who murdered my father.
So it turned out that the attacker that night was Schizophrenic, and was suffering from a particularly serious episode at that time. He had supposedly stopped taking meds because he had not liked the way they made him feel. We have been told that he was making unusual announcements; he was going to murder the queen that night and he told his friend that he was planning to have a sex change.
At this point the man called out my dad’s name, James, either having heard it at the bar or having taken a stab in the dark and stumbling across his name. My dad was always very warm and welcoming and so without hesitation went over and politely asked if he knew the man.
This man, the attacker, drew out a pair of scissors he had bought earlier at a supermarket and stabbed my dad in the chest, in the back and in the back of the neck.
As a family we have been told how being stabbed is like being punched, adrenaline kicks in and you feel nothing but a dull blow. But even now thinking about this I can only imagine how scared my dad must have been and I can’t help but picture the scene. I dreamt about it for weeks after and took comfort in sleeping in my mums bed, in the same way she took comfort in me being there so as to have someone to lie next to.
Luckily, there was a retired policeman who was there and managed to drag the man off my dad, while the attackers friend stood still, supposedly on the phone to his wife, watching the whole scene go down. I cannot be certain of this as four years on, there is still information that either we do not know or has perhaps been mistranslated.
My dad was rushed to hospital and my mum taken to London in a police car where she met my aunt and uncle at the hospital. There, they said their final goodbyes to my dad.
Throughout the week this happened, we had friends staying with us. The day after, one off them explained what she knew, that my dad had been in a fight and I wouldn’t be going to school that day. Instead, I would be going to London.
At first I cried with confusion. My dad would never get into a fight. But as I got dressed, I was almost pleased about the possibility of getting to go up to London, assuming everything was fine and that just that a few punches had been thrown.
My mum then soon arrived home with my aunt and uncle. She took my brother and I into our sitting room, which we only used Christmas and special family occasions. She sat us down and said that daddy had gone to join granny and grandpa in Heaven.
The shock of hearing you’ve lost a parent, especially with no warning, is like none other; my mum cradled us and answered any questions we had. I never remember seeing my brother cry before or since then, but I reached over and hugged him that morning seeing tears gently roll down his face and that broke my heart even more.
How could someone have taken away our dad, who was so wholesome and generous? How did he deserve that? I still sometimes ask myself why God would take someone who was so good to the world, leaving behind a cold and unstable murderer.
The trial was equally as bad. My brother and I had no wish to attend. I felt too young to comprehend being in such an intense environment and witnessing the man who killed my dad.
From day one, that man was treated like the victim and my family was treated as if we didn’t even exist. My dad’s body was not returned to us for another two months because he was granted funding for two post mortems. We couldn’t even have a proper funeral until that was finished.
My mum had to appeal for the man to even attend his own trial as his appearance was questioned. After the trial, he was given “murder with diminished responsibility” and sent to a high security psychiatric hospital.
Every step we took he challenged, exclusion zones were ignored and now he’s allowed in the town less than twenty minutes from our own. Just less than four years later, after being released from the psych hospital to go to a medium security institute, he was released. I was in India at this time, when my mum phoned in tears after us having been promised that there would be no chance of release this soon.
After all of the turmoil that we went through as a family, especially my mum who had to learn to be a single parent, take on a job and support her own grief as well as her children’s, I have so much pride for my family. No one can understand the pain unless they themselves have been through it.
The best response I got after it all was that it never gets easier; you just learn to live with it.
It’s hard to explain how death can completely upheave your whole world, especially in cases where it’s not common, like murder: I noticed people hurriedly pass me on the street who would have once stopped to say “hi” but now felt too awkward. I began to get angry at anyone who would bad mouth their dads because i felt they were so lucky to still have one. People would tiptoe around me. Very few knew how to respond to the pain I was in.
But now, four and a half years on, my family and I are moving forward. My mum has met a lovely man who lost his wife to cancer a year after we lost daddy. They’re getting married next summer. My brother has a huge passion for music and is at a wonderful school and I am now at University,
I know that my dad would be so proud of us all. Wearing his old clothes comforts me and I truly believe that I will see my dad again one day.
The morning he died, my Godfather was sitting in the garden, having heard the news, when a pigeon came and landed directly on his foot. He swore this was daddy, and since then, I love the sight of pigeons and feel connected to my dad each time I see one.
In these ways I still feel his presence and I count myself lucky to say that I have the memories I do of him, as a healthy, loving and indescribable husband and father.
Georgie, Dorset, United Kingdom