Charlie was ready to welcome his new baby, but then something unimaginable happened.
Here, Charlie Haggarty, 56, tells the story in his own words.
￼Holding up the baby romper, my fiancee Charma, 30, beamed. ‘I can’t wait until he’s here,’ she said.
At 24 weeks pregnant, she was glowing. That day, we’d found out we were expecting a boy and had bought heaps of clothes.My son’s going to be spoilt rotten, I smiled.
Meeting through friends at a birthday party, Charma and I had hit it off. Do you want to come round for tea? she texted afterwards. Beautiful and caring, she was originally from the Philippines and cared for patients at a hospital. When we began dating in early 2016, she was estranged from her husband, Merv, who lived four hours away
Falling in love, I felt like the luckiest man on earth. Always looking after me, she left me food in the fridge for when I got home from my shifts working at a mine. My family loved her too, and she got on like a house on fire with my nephew Jade.
Planning our future together, we bought a plot in the Philippines to eventually live on. But Merv was unhappy that Charma had moved on. Texting her constantly, sometimes he turned up at the house. Switching her phone to aeroplane mode, she tried to avoid him. ‘Why is he pestering you?’ I asked her. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll handle him,’ she said. Charma knew him best so I decided not to interfere.
Our relationship is all that matters, I thought. Before we got together, Charma had been told she would struggle to conceive.I had a daughter Rachael, 24, but both Charma and I longed to start a family.
Then in August 2016, I started to crave ice cream. This is weird, I thought, but I just couldn’t get enough of it. Mates joked that I must be pregnant. ‘Perhaps Charma should take a test!’ they laughed. Why not? we thought. I’ll never forget the joy in her voice when she phoned to tell me the news. Positive. Giving Charma an engagement ring, I was thrilled when she accepted. ‘I’m so happy,’ she cried, flinging her arms around me.
Excited, we got our place ready for the new arrival. ‘Let’s call him Jayden,’ Charma suggested. ‘After Jade.’ It was perfect. Two days later, I left for work around 5am. Spotting Merv’s car close by, I texted Charma to let her know. It never occurred to me he might hurt her. After all, he seemed to still have feelings for her.
When I got home later, Charma told me Merv had knocked on the door, so she’d given him a coffee. ‘I repeated it was over and he said he’d go back to Kalgoorlie,’ she told me. The following morning at work, someone told me they’d seen Merv hanging around our place again. Like the day before, I warned Charma. Why couldn’t he stop bothering her?
I considered going home to see Merv myself. But then a staff member, Pete, told me his place had been broken into. He wanted to check his wife and baby were safe. ‘I’ll come with you,’ I said. So I asked a friend to look in on Charma. After checking on Pete’s family, I drove back to work. Then, my phone rang. It was the hospital. They had devastating news.Charma’s body had been found in our carport. She’d been attacked and paramedics couldn’t save her or our bub.‘It’s Merv,’ I said in horror, as my world crashed down around me.
Jealous of our happiness, he’d done something horrific. Police arrested him 300km away later that day, Charma’s blood still on his chest.
Flying Charma and Jayden to the Philippines was beyond heartbreaking. We said goodbye with a beautiful ceremony.
A trial at WA’s Supreme Court heard Merv had gone to tell Charma he wouldn’t grant her a divorce. He’d hidden in a vacant lot next door and waited for me to leave for work. Once in the house, they’d argued and he’d grabbed a heavy frying pan and bashed her at least twice on the head, splitting it open.When she fell to the floor, he’d climbed on to her, crushing her petite 57 kilo body and bump with his 100 kilo frame. Evidence suggested he may also have strangled her. Charma fought back, scratching him on the cheek. But at some point, she passed away.
Instead of getting help, Merv dragged her to the carport before stealing her phone and some documents, trying to make it look like a robbery. He took her car, setting it alight in a remote spot. Then he threw her phone, full of precious photos of us together, down a mineshaft. How could he do that to a pregnant woman? I thought. He was pure evil.
On March 1, at the Supreme Court, Mervyn Annear, 65, was cleared of murder but found guilty of manslaughter. He’d tried to claim he’d acted in self-defence and didn’t know Charma was pregnant, but this was rejected. Merv was later sentenced to 10 years in jail, with eight years non-parole.
Justice Joseph McGrath said he had acted ‘callously’ and shown ‘no remorse whatsoever’ for taking Charma’s life.
To me, his sentence is far from enough.
Charma will never be a mum and I’ll never get to hold my boy. I had no idea I could feel this much pain. Eighteen months on, I’ve found the strength to keep Charma and Jayden’s memory alive. While I’m here, they’ll never be forgotten.
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