Playing with my toys, I sprang up as soon as I heard the front door open.
‘Dad!’ I cried, when my father, Kevin, walked into the living room.
‘How was your day?’ he asked, a huge smile spreading across his face.
At five years old, I was truly a daddy’s girl.
Dad, 29, was my hero.
Then one night, in February 1990, he tucked me into bed.
From my parents’ room next door, I could hear my baby brother crying, so
I pulled the covers up around my ears.
‘He’ll settle soon, night love,’ Dad said.
After kissing him goodnight, I soon drifted off to sleep.
But a few hours later, I woke with a jolt to find a stranger looming over me.
As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised the man in my bedroom was a police officer.
‘You need to come with me,’ he said.
As he led me downstairs, I saw the house was swarming with police officers and other grown-ups I didn’t recognise.
What was going on? And where was my dad?
Looking up at the officers’ serious faces, I knew something bad had happened.
‘Where’s my dad?’ I asked, but the policeman ignored my question.
‘That’s it, this way,’ he said, as he covered my eyes with his hands and hurriedly guided me out of the house.
What horror was he hiding from me?
My stomach tightened in a sickening knot as I pleaded with officers to tell me what was going on.
Terrified and alone, I frantically looked around for Dad.
But he wasn’t coming.
I’d never see him again.
‘I’m sorry, your dad’s dead,’ a social worker eventually told me.
I was inconsolable.
I later found out that in the middle of the night, my parents had been brutally attacked in their bedroom by men wielding a chisel, axe and a knife.
A stranger had hacked at my poor dad’s neck, decapitating him.
Mum, 32, had been left for dead.
Her injuries were so devastating, her eye had to be removed.
Surgeons also needed to rebuild her face and she had to stay in hospital to recover.
Thankfully, my brother wasn’t hurt.
‘You’re going to stay with another family while your mum gets better,’ the social worker explained gently.
Lost in grief, I’d never felt so alone. I longed to see my dad and thought of him every day.
I just couldn’t understand who would want to hurt him.
Eventually, I was reunited with my mum, but our family was never the same.
Two men were charged with Dad’s murder and Mum’s attempted murder, but in court, they were acquitted.
It meant the killer was still out there.
Over the years, I tried to somehow come to terms with Dad’s horrific death.
I longed to get justice for him, but when his case remained unsolved, I was devastated.
I was constantly haunted by thoughts of my dad’s lifeless body and, as an adult, I became obsessed by death.
That’s when I decided to put my fascination to positive use – by helping other grieving families.
I knew what it was like to lose a loved one, and I was determined to give people the support I was never given.
‘I’m going to become a funeral director,’ I told my friend one evening.
My mates were taken aback at first.
‘Isn’t it a bit of a morbid career choice?’ they asked.
But seeing how much it meant to me, they vowed to support me.
For years, I worked tirelessly towards my dream.
With few openings for jobs in the local funeral parlours,
I spent hours scouring the internet for any opportunity, while completing my exams online.
Then, finally, after seven years of searching, I was accepted as a trainee at a funeral directors nearby.
It was the break I needed.
I can finally make Dad proud, I thought, as I started my first day in my new job.
Jumping at every opportunity, I threw myself into learning the ropes and working hard.
All the while, I saved up my wages, and with support from friends and family, who generously helped raise funds, I eventually had enough money to open my own funeral service in November 2018.
It’s finally happening, I thought, as I signed the lease on my own premises.
It was a bittersweet moment but I was so delighted that something positive had come from Dad’s murder.
I opened a space that offered affordable funerals to families.
I felt so happy to be able to help people who were going through the same grief as I did.
I named it K.C. Funeral Service after my dad, Kevin Childerley. I like to think he’s still with me in my work, and in my heart.
I’ll never forget the day Dad was brutally murdered just metres away from where I slept, but I hope that now, he’s looking down on me and I’m making him proud.