SOPHIA’S PARENTS, KELVIN, 45, AND ASSIA, 44, WERE SEPARATED AND HAD BEEN LIVING IN DIFFERENT HOUSES FOR TWO YEARS WHEN IN A JEALOUS RAGE HER DAD KILLED HER MUM.
MUM-OF-FOUR ASSIA HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH A WAITER ON HOLIDAY IN TUNISIA AFTER BEING TRAPPED IN AN UNHAPPY MARRIAGE TO KELVIN FOR YEARS.
ASSIA FINALLY TOLD KELVIN SHE WANTED A DIVORCE AFTER MEETING HER NEW MAN AND SHE HAD BEEN DUE TO FLY OUT TO MEET HER LOVER FOR A THIRD HOLIDAY IN TWO MONTHS WHEN KELVIN STRANGLED HER IN HER BEDROOM WITH A DOG LEAD.
NOW SOPHIA, 18, HAS LOST BOTH HER MUM AND HER DAD. HE WAS FOUND GUILTY OF MURDER AND SENTENCED TO 18 YEARS BEHIND BARS. SHE HATES HIM FOR WHAT HE DID, BUT HAS SAID HE WILL ALWAYS BE HER DAD AND PART OF HER WILL ALWAYS LOVE HIM.
I heard a familiar voice call out, as the front door opened.
‘It’s only me,’ said my dad, Kelvin, 44, popping his head in.
My dad and my mum, Assia, 44, had separated two years earlier, but he dropped into the family home to see my sisters Charmaine, 23, and Sameera, 17, and I every day.
He had only moved down the road, in our hometown of Pencoed, near Bridgend, Wales, but I still missed him like mad.
Mum and dad had been married for more than 20 years.
I had always been a daddy’s girl and the closest out of my siblings to him, but he and my mum remained friends too.
While my mum and sisters went shopping, I would go along to rugby training with dad.
He was the kit man for our local team and we would always go and watch the match together on a Saturday.
And as I grew up he would take me horse riding on my pony, Prince.
Now that they were no longer living under the same roof, mum and dad seemed to get on much better and they would walk our dogs, Louis and Lola, together most days.
He might not have been living with us anymore, but he made sure he was there whenever we needed him.
He would help Charmaine with any decorating in her house and would taxi Sameera around, giving her lifts whenever she needed them.
From the kitchen mum shouted to dad and said: ‘You might as well stay for tea.’
On a Wednesday dad had dinner with us. It felt just like old times, only one person was missing – my brother, Daniel, 21.
He died when he fell from a minibus into the path of a car during a stag do in 2008 and we had all struggled to come to terms with losing him – my mum especially.
Every week Daniel’s two sons, Caled-Jay and Evan-Rees, both seven, would come over to play and dad make sure he was there to see them.
Although mum loved having the boys over, nothing seemed to be able to drag her out of the depression she sank into after Daniel’s death and she was signed off from her job at Asda.
She was often getting teary and would re-live the past, saying: ‘If only Daniel was here now’. Whereas dad kept his grief bottled up like a typical bloke.
Mum always perked up when she could get away from it all and with my 18th birthday coming up at the end of May last year she planned on treating me to a holiday.
‘You choose where you’d like to go and I’ll pay for it,’ she told me.
She had taken Charmaine to Benidorm, Spain, for hers, but I liked the look of Tunisia – with its crystal clear waters and golden sandy beaches.
We booked a week long break in the Port El Kantaoui and my Nan, Linda, 60, joined us too.
Passport, bikini, flip flops – I dug out all of the essentials.
I even filled my suitcase with some of my books to try and revise while I sunbathed, as I had my A-Level exams to sit as soon as we got back.
With the holiday to look forward to mum seemed much happier.
We made the most of the trip – going on a camel ride, soaking up the sun by the pool and going to watch Zulu dancers.
Half-board, at breakfast and dinner each day we were shown to our table by a waiter called Ahmed.
Although he was only in his 20s, he would flirt outrageously with my nan and kept jokingly pestering her saying: ‘Let me take you out on a date.’
He asked me about school and what I planned to do afterwards and chatted to us about what we had been up to each day.
One evening we were out shopping at the marina when he bumped into Ahmed.
‘I’m going to stay and have a coffee with him,’ mum told me and nan as we went to hit the shops.
When the week was over and it was time to fly home, we were all deflated.
But as soon as we were back on British soil mum was talking about her next holiday.
She decided that she wanted to go back to the same resort, by herself this time.
She had always been too worried about going alone, but there were lots of tourists by themselves while we were there and that had reassured her.
A few weeks later, in June, she flew back to Tunisia. She called and text us each day to let us know what she had been up to, including meeting up with Ahmed again.
One evening she was missing Daniel again, and confided in Ahmed. They went for a walk and he opened up about he had lost his dad.
They took comfort in each other and when mum left she swapped email addresses and her Skype ID with Ahmed to keep in touch.
I was so jealous that mum went back, I booked to go to the same place in Tunisia with a group of friends in July.
But I always burned after forgetting to apply sun cream and dad was worried about me going without supervision, he even joked: ‘I have a good mind to send your mum over there to keep an eye on you.’
I thought he was just pulling my leg, but he booked and paid for mum to go back at the same time, albeit on a different flight.
She said she would keep herself to herself but just be around if we needed anything.
I was working in McDonald’s part-time to save up spending money.
Three days before we were due to fly out again, I was down to do a 2pm-10pm shift. My car had broken down, but dad said he would give me a lift and he took mum’s car to drop me off.
When I had finished mum wasn’t in the car park to collect me. If I needed her to come and get me she never usually forgot.
I dialled her number, but there was no answer. I tried a few more times, but it just kept going to voicemail.
Instead I thought I would call dad, but he didn’t answer either.
Thinking my mum might be at my Auntie Bev’s house I tried her too, but she didn’t pick up either.
Luckily, Charmaine and her boyfriend, Shane were able to drive and get me. They had tried to get hold of mum too but couldn’t.
When we got back to the house, we got into the porch, but the front door was locked with the key in it on the inside – if mum went upstairs she would often bolt the door behind her.
Shane spotted the kitchen window was ajar and he tried to squeeze through it, but it was too small.
We realised mum’s car was gone and that’s when we started to panic. It just didn’t make sense.
‘I don’t know where she could be,’ I cried, starting to worry. ‘Maybe we should call the police.’
After dialling 999 officers arrived in minutes and broke down the door to search the house, while we waited downstairs.
They quickly sat us all in the living room and said: ‘We’ve found your mum. She’s passed away.’
I broke down in hysterics.
They thought she might have hung herself.
We were shocked, but she had been so down about Daniel we believed that was probably the case.
The next few hours were a blur – police took our statements and we tried to decide what to tell our younger sister, Sameera.
She was in France with her boyfriend and his family on a caravan holiday and we didn’t want to call her and break the news. None of us were sure what to say.
Shane went to pick up my Nan and mum’s sister, Auntie Nadia, as well as her daughter, Lauren, 22.
I tried to ring dad again, desperate for him to come and be there for us.
All I wanted was for him to wrap his arms around me and tell me it was all going to be ok. But there was still no answer.
For hours we all thought mum must have commit suicide.
But at 2am police told us that mum’s car was missing and they believed a third party might have been involved in her death.
Suddenly it all started to click into place. Dad had driven me to work in mum’s car that night.
Deep down, I knew he must have had something to do with it; I just couldn’t accept that he would.
At around 4am we all went back to my Nan’s house, but no one really slept. Everyone was still in shock.
We weren’t allowed into the house so all I had was the McDonald’s uniform I was wearing.
The next day we rang Sameera and told her she had to come home. She kept asking why but we didn’t know how to respond.
‘There’s been an accident,’ was all we could muster, telling her bits of it.
She got on the next plane back to the UK and as soon as she landed she received texts from friends saying: ‘I’m so sorry to hear that your mum has died,’ so she already knew.
Police liaison officers came over that morning.
‘Have you found my dad?’, ‘Was it him?’, ‘Where has he been?’ I asked, desperate for answers, but they couldn’t say too much.
Dad handed himself in that afternoon and almost a week after it happened he was charged with murder.
He had strangled mum with a dog lead after she finally asked him for a divorce.
Charmaine went back to hers with Shane, and after a few weeks Sameera and I decided to move in with her.
Together we planned mum’s funeral, asking for mourners to wear bright colours and choosing Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ to be played.
A couple of months later I went to visit my dad’s parents, Carol and Gwyn. They believed what he had done was wrong, but said he was still their son.
As I was on my way back I had a call from Charmaine.
‘I want my key back,’ she snapped.
I asked her why and she snarled: ‘Because you’ve been over to see the murderer’s family’ before hanging up.
When I got to Charmaine’s I found all of my clothes and possessions strewn across the lawn and she refused to let me in or speak to me.
I moved in with friend of mum and dad’s for a little while, before going to live with my dad’s parents.
I tried to talk to my sisters but neither of them wanted to know.
They sold all of the items from the house and wouldn’t allow me to have any of mum’s possessions to remember her by.
Mum was buried alongside Daniel and whenever I tried to visit their graves and leave flowers, I would find them chucked away or ornaments smashed.
I made my own memorial at my grandparents’ house where I had pictures of mum and put up a card on Mother’s Day.
While dad was in custody I decided to go and see him.
We had been sending letters back and forth to each other and although he was trying to give me answers I felt like I needed to hear it from him.
In November, before his trial, I went to prison to hear what he had to say for himself.
Angry, I wanted to hate him.
I was sick with nerves, but as soon as I sat down my heart went out to him and we started talking as if nothing had happened and we were back at home.
I realised I could never forgive what he had done, but he would always be my dad and part of me would always love him.
To me he wasn’t a monster and I believed if he could turn back time he would.
I went back to visit dad once a week and he called me as often as he could.
He started telling me details of what happened that evening to prepare me for what I would hear in court and although it was hard to listen to I needed to know.
When the case came before Cardiff Crown Court in February this year, I went along with dad’s friends.
Giving evidence was scary but I knew I had nothing to hide.
The court heard mum and dad argued and he strangled her to stop her leaving him.
Dad refused to accept mum had had enough, so he wound a dog lead around her mouth in her bedroom last summer as she planned a third holiday to Tunisia.
He sought no help as she collapsed in front of him, while he pulled the lead as tight as could, he showed no remorse and set about lighting a fire to destroy the evidence.
She was killed as she planned to start a new life with Ahmed.
Mum had said there had been no sexual relationship between them but she hoped they might fall in love.
Mum had jokingly referred to herself as ‘Shirley Valentine’ after the film where a middle aged woman finds holiday romance.
But dad just wouldn’t accept their marriage was over.
When he was found guilty I was devastated.
I watched in court as he was sentenced to at least 18 years behind bars.
When I get married I won’t get to go shopping for my bridal gown with my mum and my dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle.
I’ll never ever forgive my dad for what he did, but I do believe that he is truly sorry.
I love my mum and dad both unconditionally. I don’t know how I’m supposed to just switch off my feelings for him.
I hate him for killing my mum and I always will, but my mum wouldn’t want me living in the past.
If you have a tragic story to share, use our story submission form on the right hand side of this page. We are the largest contributor of stories and features to the national press. We handle all stories with the utmost sensitivity, and we can guarantee you a full read-back of your story before anything is printed so that you stay in complete control.
We also guarantee you the highest fee so you can make money for yourself or a charity of your choice; read more about how to sell a story to the press on the Sell My Story page. You can also read more about how much your story is worth on our How Much is My Story Worth page.