After a stressful day at work, I popped round to a friend’s house for a chat and to let off steam.
Then a whirlwind barged through the kitchen door, hands full of bags.
I stopped mid-sentence and was introduced to Simon Clark.
He’d spent the day at the beach and had called in at our mutual friend’s house for a shower.
I couldn’t help but notice his easy-going, friendly face.
‘I’d sure love to do your feet,’ he smiled with a twinkle in his eye. I almost spat out my coffee.
‘What?’ I exclaimed.
‘I practise reflexology,’ he said. ‘I apply pressure to your feet to target different areas of your body. It relieves tension.’
‘Maybe next time,’ I laughed.
A month later, I ended up at a party and found Simon, 54, was there too.
Drinks were flowing and he was twitching to get his hands on my feet.
‘Go on then!’ I giggled, whipping off my socks.
As he massaged my feet, we chatted away.
We were very different.
He was a free-spirited hippie, while I was a materialistic wage slave.
On paper, he definitely wasn’t my type. But the chemistry between us was electric!
Simon lived over 300 kilometres away so we only caught up occasionally.
But when I handed in my notice at work to concentrate on a renovation project, I had a few weeks
‘Come and stay with me,’ Simon offered, telling me to bring my gumboots.
Excited, I packed two huge bags.
I had outfits for day and night, and armfuls of beauty products and make-up.
And, of course, my hair dryer and straightener.
‘You made it!’ Simon said, welcoming me with a big hug when I arrived.
Following him through a muddy field of cows to his home, I wondered what I’d let myself in for.
He lived in a yurt – a big sturdy tent – with no running water or electricity.
But I immediately loved it.
Simon wasn’t interested in money and he was so easy to talk to. Forgetting all about my appearance, I lived in the moment. And after three weeks with him, I felt like a new person.
Over time, I had amazing experiences with Simon, like sleeping in the back of his van at the beach and watching the sunrise.
There’s so much more to life than work, I realised.
Simon had opened my eyes to the world and we soon fell in love.
In July 2017, he bought a caravan just a half hour’s drive away from me.
‘They seem nice,’ I said after he introduced me to his new neighbours, Steve Baxter and his partner.
Soon, the four of us were hanging out together.
One night over drinks, Steve announced that he believed the earth was flat.
‘And the sun is a laser, not a star like everybody thinks,’ he added.
My Simon gave a snort.
‘Rubbish,’ he declared.
But I noticed Steve didn’t like it if anybody disagreed with him.
After that, Simon separated himself from Steve and his crowd.
Now, the caravan park felt like a dark place.
‘What will you do?’ I asked Simon.
‘My life’s here,’ he shrugged. ‘It’s fine, we can still be neighbours.’
On September 28, 2018, I was visiting family.
Arriving in the early hours, I tried to call Simon and let him know I’d arrived safely.
When he didn’t answer, I sent a quick text before turning in for the night. But the next morning, I saw Simon still hadn’t replied.
As the day wore on and Simon ignored all my texts and calls, I got huffy.
‘What’s he playing at?’ I stormed.
Then, trawling through Facebook that evening, I saw something which made my blood run cold.
A man’s body had been found at the caravan park.
Hysterical, I called police.
I was able to identify Simon over the phone by a distinguishing feature – a Mr Happy tattoo on his bum.
Devastated, I couldn’t believe I’d never see him again.
I found out Simon died from a stab wound to the heart and Steve Baxter was wanted in connection with his death, but he’d vanished.
After a month on the run, hiding in caves and forests and eating fish and seaweed, he was finally arrested in a beachside tent.
In April 2019, Steven Baxter, 52, appeared at court and pleaded not guilty to murder.
Baxter claimed that he’d killed Simon in self-defence but the jury didn’t believe his lies and he was found guilty.
He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 24 years.
Judge Mr Justice Picken told Baxter, ‘You and you alone were to blame for his death. You were the aggressor.’
I’ll never know the real reason Baxter killed my soulmate that night, but he showed no remorse during his trial.
Simon’s death broke my heart. He was a good man and being with him was the best therapy in the world.
I feel him around me all the time but now I’ll try to move forward and make the most of the rest of my life.