He murdered my mum but I still love him

When Sophia joined her mum on a dream holiday in Tunisia, she had no idea of the horror to come.
Dad and me

Sophia Newton, 19, Pencoed, Wales

There were just three days to go and I could hardly wait! For months I’d been saving all my spare cash for this holiday.

I was heading to Tunisia with my mum, Assia, 44, and both of us were so excited. We’d first gone there a few months earlier, along with my nan, Linda, 60, as a special treat for my 18th birthday.

‘You choose where you’d like to go and I’ll pay for it,’ Mum said. She needed a break too. Mum and my dad, Kelvin, 44, had split up two years earlier after 20 years of marriage.

Dad moved out of the house, but still popped round to see me and my sisters, Charmaine, 23, and Sameera, 17, every day. That wasn’t the only difficulty our family had endured. In 2008 my brother Daniel, 21, died in a car accident, leaving us all heartbroken.

She needed a break too.

Mum sank into a deep depression and was signed off work, while Dad started drinking a lot. At times he had a horrible temper and before they split up, he and Mum argued constantly. Things appeared a lot better now they were apart, I thought.

Mum seemed happier and when our Tunisia trip came around we had a great time – camel riding and soaking up the sun. With breakfast and dinner included in our package, we soon got chatting to our waiter, Ahmed. He was in his 20s, but he was very flirtatious with Mum!

‘I’m going to stay and have a coffee with him,’ she said when we bumped into him one day. It was all very innocent but after that, he and Mum would chat occasionally. As soon as we were back home, she started talking about returning to Tunisia.

‘Things appeared a lot better now they were apart,’ I thought.

‘I’ll go by myself this time,’ she decided. So a few weeks later she’d flown back and met up with Ahmed again.

‘He’s so lovely, and he really listens to me,’ she said later. ‘I think I might be falling for him.’ When Mum’s holiday ended, she swapped email address and Skype details with Ahmed so they could stay in touch.

Hearing about Mum’s break, I wanted to return to Tunisia. Talking it through, I decided to arrange another break with a few friends in July. But Dad was worried about me going without supervision.

Mum with daughters
Mum with us kids.

‘I have a good mind to send your mum over there to keep an eye on you,’ he grinned. I thought he was pulling my leg, but he wasn’t. Instead, he booked and paid for Mum to come with me. ‘I’ll keep myself to myself,’ she reassured me, so I didn’t mind.

Now there was just three days to go before our trip. I was filled with excitement as Dad dropped me at work for one of my last shifts. I was expecting Mum to collect me afterwards but she didn’t turn up and she didn’t answer when I called her phone. Trying Dad, he didn’t pick up either. Luckily Charmaine and her boyfriend came to get me and we headed home together.

But back at the house, we discovered something odd. The front door was locked from the inside. Realising Mum’s car wasn’t in the driveway either, I frowned. Where was she?

…she didn’t answer when I called her phone.

Worried, I called the police and within minutes officers were breaking down the door and searching the house. Nothing could’ve prepared me for what happened next. An officer came into the living room to speak to us.

‘We’ve found your mum,’ he said. ‘She’s passed away.’ What?

The next few hours were a blur as police took statements from all of us. I tried to ring Dad again but still, he didn’t answer. Then, at 2am, the police had shocking news.

They thought Mum had been murdered. Her car was still missing and suddenly something clicked in my mind. Dad had been driving it that afternoon when he dropped me off at work… Did he have something to do with this? Surely not. He couldn’t have…

But my worst fears were soon confirmed. Dad handed himself in and a week later he was charged with murder. Numb, I don’t know how I got through the days that followed. And along with shock and sadness, I felt so confused. How could Dad have done this?

Surely not. He couldn’t have…

That’s why four months later, after writing to him a few times, I made the difficult decision to visit him in prison. Dad had been writing back and although he was trying to give me answers, I felt like I needed to hear it from him.

Dad and me

I wanted to hate him. He’d stolen Mum. But sitting down in front of him I felt even more confused than before. This was Dad – the same man who’d cared for me as a baby, taken me horse riding and to rugby matches as a kid.

That day in the prison, we talked like we used to. Before the nightmare began. Continuing to visit Dad, he gradually told me about what happened the day Mum died.

I wanted to hate him.

He wanted to prepare me for what would later come out in court. Although it was hard, I was relieved to hear it first. I could never forgive him for what he’d done. But I also knew part of me would always love him. No matter what.

Three months later, in February this year, I was there to see my dad, Kelvin Newton, then 45, appear before Cardiff Crown Court. The court heard that Mum and Dad’s marriage had always been volatile. They’d argued that day because Mum wanted a divorce. She’d told him she’d fallen for Ahmed and hoped to start a new life with him.

Mum had even jokingly referred to herself as ‘Shirley Valentine’, after the famous film about a woman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery abroad. But Dad refused to accept Mum’s decision. He strangled her with a dog lead and then lit a fire to destroy the evidence.

I also knew part of me would always love him. No matter what.

Dad denied murder, saying he only gagged Mum with the dog lead in a fit of rage – he hadn’t meant to kill her. But a jury found him guilty and he was sentenced to at least 18 years in prison.

Five months on, I’m still struggling to come to terms with what’s happened. I miss Mum so much and I can’t believe she’s gone.

I feel so torn. While I’ll never forgive Dad for what he’s done, I can’t simply switch off my feelings for him. I hate him for killing Mum. But I just can’t stop loving him too.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 28, 2014.

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