Emma Dicken, 40, got the most awful news over the holidays...
Here, Emma, tells the story in her own words.
It'￼s a little girl, Christmas was my favourite time of year.
I loved everything about it – the twinkling fairy lights, the food – and of course the presents under the tree!
My dad Geoffrey and mum Gina always made it extra special.
Dad had a warm, kind smile and he’d lift me above his head with his strong arms until I felt like I was going to touch the clouds. Then when I was six, my parents divorced.
‘I’m going to spend as much time with you as possible,’ Dad vowed.
But after he met his new girlfriend, Susan, he stopped visiting. He didn’t call either and when he moved, he didn’t tell us where to.
My nan said he was living with Susan, but then he stopped visiting his mum too.
As the months rolled into years, no-one saw him. It was so hard to understand and sometimes I’d cry as I missed him terribly.
In the meantime, Mum met someone new too, and when I was nine she remarried.
My stepdad brought me up as his own but I often thought of Dad and wondered where he was. And when I had children of my own, Darren and Rhys, I couldn’t help but think of Dad. Does he ever think of me? I wondered.
Then in 2007, I started getting blinding headaches. I went to my doctor, who referred me to the hospital for tests. The consultant explained they had bad news for me.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘But we’ve discovered a tumour behind your left eye.’
While it wasn’t cancerous, I needed radiotherapy and laser surgery to try and shrink it.
Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t save my eye and by 2012, I’d lost all the sight on that side and doctors warned I’d eventually go completely blind.
Devastated, it knocked my confidence. But while I could still see out of my right eye, I enjoyed the little things, like watching my favourite television show about family reunions.
I’d be in floods of tears when they met again – it wasn’t just the storylines, but the fact it struck a chord. The more I watched it, the more I thought about Dad.
I have to see him again, I thought, feeling determined to track him down.
By now almost 30 years had passed.
Christmas was approaching, so I decided it would be my New Year’s resolution to start looking.
On Christmas Day 2013, as I enjoyed my dinner, I kept wondering what Dad was up to and dreaming of the reunion we might have. But the night before New Year’s Eve, Mum called me. She sounded upset.
‘The police are on their way round to see you love,’ she said. ‘They have some bad news.’ ‘What’s happened?’ I asked. She took a deep breath before telling me. ‘It’s your dad… he’s dead,’ she replied. ‘I’m so sorry.’
In that moment, my world fell apart.
I’d barely taken it in when she explained that Dad had died on Christmas Day.
Just half an hour later, two police officers arrived at my front door. I listened in stunned horror as they explained my poor dad had been killed by his partner, Susan.
He had knife wounds and after his flat was set on fire, he’d died from smoke inhalation. He was just 58 years old.
I collapsed with shock as the sickening realisation hit me – I’d never get a chance to be reunited with my dad.
A few weeks later, I visited him in the morgue. ‘Goodbye Dad,’ I whispered. ‘I’m sorry we never got to meet again.’
I just couldn’t believe that the first time I’d seen him in 30 years was also the last. It was almost too much for me to bear.
Afterwards, I took Dad’s ashes home with me. It wasn’t the reunion I’d dreamed of, but at least I had something of him.
When Susan Buckley, 57, appeared in court, she denied murdering my dad, Geoffrey Carter, and her trial began. I attended every day. There, I heard how they’d been in an on-off, love-hate relationship for 27 years.
Things came to a head on Christmas Eve when they started drinking and arguing about a present Susan had been given. The argument continued into the early hours of Christmas Day.
In the afternoon, Susan threw a present Dad had bought for her at him.
After slashing his arm and shoulder with a kitchen knife, she’d set fire to some clothes that were piled up on an armchair.
The court heard she had time to extinguish the flames but she chose not to. Susan had killed Dad after a petty row over Christmas presents. It just seemed so senseless.
The jury found her guilty and jailed her for life, with a minimum of 17 years.
I’m glad that justice was served, but it doesn’t bring Dad back. I’ll never get the chance to be reunited with him and the festive season will never be the same again for me.
That monster murderess robbed me of my dad – and of Christmas.
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