Nothing's perfect

Jealousy, betrayal and bloodshed hid behind our smiles....

Published by: Amy Thompson and Sharon Ward
Published on: 15th March 2010

When I first met Paul Terry at the dentist’s where I worked, I could’ve guessed before he told me that he was a policeman. He had that air of authority, and I felt safe around him as he chatted away about his job patrolling at a primary school.
So when he asked me out, I didn’t hesitate. Gazing into his gentle brown eyes over a glass of wine, he seemed perfect.
I was 27 and most of the guys I’d gone out with still wanted to live the single life, going out partying every weekend. Paul, 30, was different. He wanted a nice home, family…
‘I’ve got three brothers and a sister,’ he told me, smiling sadly. ‘But they live miles away, I hardly see them.’
‘That’s too bad,’ I sympathised.
‘Our parents were really pushy,’ he said. ‘It drove a wedge between us, not the way a family should be.’
Poor guy. Family clearly meant
a lot to him. It was a shame he didn’t get to see much of his.
After a year of dating, me and Paul got married and decided to start a family of our own.
When I found out I was pregnant, Paul was thrilled. ‘I’m gonna be a daddy!’ he beamed, hugging me tight.
When our daughter Elyse was born, Paul couldn’t put her down. And when our son Ian came along a year later, he was the same – totally besotted.
But as the kids got older, I started to notice changes in Paul’s behaviour. It was silly little things at first, like undermining me when it came to the kids’ bedtime. ‘What are you guys still doing up?’ I asked, walking into the living room to find Elyse, seven, and Ian, six, cuddled up with their dad on the sofa.
Paul laughed. ‘One more hour won’t hurt,’ he grinned.
Easy for him to say! He wasn’t the one who’d have to deal with two tired, irritable kids in the morning. Still, it was a one-off, what harm could it do?
Only, it wasn’t. It felt like Paul did it deliberately to make life harder for me. As time wore on, he got more controlling.
Sitting in Ian’s room, reading him a bedtime story one night, he suddenly barged in. ‘What are you whispering about?’ he demanded. ‘Are you talking about me?’
‘Mummy’s reading,’ Ian said, lifting the storybook on my lap.
I stared at Paul open-mouthed.
What had got into him?
His usually soft brown eyes were cold and menacing as he glared at us suspiciously, then turned on his heels and walked out.
‘Daddy looked scary,’ Ian frowned, snuggling closer to me.
‘He’s just tired,’ I lied. ‘Let’s get back to this story…’
But I couldn’t focus on the words. The image of Paul’s angry face still burned in my mind. What was happening to my husband?
Elyse and Ian loved gymnastics, but Paul was suddenly disgusted his only son had a passion for something other than football.
‘Gymnastics?’ he’d said when Ian told him he’d been picked for the school team. ‘That’s a sissy sport!’
Luckily, Ian didn’t give it up. But I could tell he was affected by his dad’s harsh words.
The thing was, no one outside our house seemed to notice anything was wrong. To all our neighbours, he seemed like the perfect bloke.
On my 40th birthday, though, Paul seemed to turn a corner.
Bundling me and the kids in the car, he wrapped a blindfold around my eyes. ‘Where are we going?’
‘I’ve planned a surprise,’ he replied. ‘You’ll love it.’
For a split-second, a shiver tingled my spine.
Something about the tone in his voice… almost threatening.
When we arrived at our destination and he took off my blindfold, though, I was stunned.
I was standing in a posh hotel’s huge hall which was filled with our family and friends. I laughed happily. Banners lined
the walls saying Happy Birthday.
Paul had arranged a huge party, a DJ, food… the works!
‘But how…?’ I breathed, baffled by how he could afford all this.
‘Don’t worry about that now,’ he waved his hand casually. ‘This is your night – enjoy it.’
I beamed at him. My hubby was back to his old self. We had a great night, and even stayed over in the penthouse suite with the kids.
When the bill was slid under our door the next morning, Paul didn’t even look at it before handing it to me. ‘What’s this?’ I smiled, taking the slip of paper.
My jaw dropped when I saw the amount. ‘$18,000 (£11,500)!’ I gasped. ‘How can you afford this?’
Paul laughed like I’d just cracked the funniest joke he’d ever heard. ‘I’m not paying,’ he chuckled, his eyes mocking. ‘You are.’
I stared at him in disbelief.
‘W-what?’ I stammered.
‘It was your party, you pay for it,’ he smiled. ‘Everyone had
such a good time didn’t they? I bet they think I’m a great guy.’
Suddenly, the penny dropped.
Paul hadn’t thrown me a huge surprise party for my benefit – it was just another way of putting on a show, making everyone around us think he was the perfect husband.
No one would believe what he was really like behind the winning smile and police uniform. We couldn’t leave without paying, so I called the bank to increase my credit limit.
Back home, I made a decision.
‘I want a divorce,’ I told Paul firmly.
‘You won’t leave me,’ he scoffed.
I glared at him, filled with determination. ‘I will, and I am,’ I said.
‘You’ll regret it,’ he seethed, stalking out
of the room.
We slept in separate bedrooms and didn’t speak for a few days.
Then on the fourth day, two police officers knocked on the door. Paul had gone out earlier that morning.
‘Is everything okay?’ I asked, opening the door.
‘We received an alarm call from your house,’ one officer said. ‘Could you go check your jewellery’s safe please? There have been a few burglaries in the area lately.’
I nodded, walking past the kids watching TV in the living room, and running upstairs. One of them must have tripped the burglar alarm. Everything seemed to be as I’d left it.
Glancing out of the window, though, I could see the police car parked in the road… and bundling Elyse and Ian into it was Paul! Racing downstairs, I flew out the door. ‘What are you doing?’ I shrieked.
But the policewoman blocked my path. ‘The real reason we’re here is because your husband has taken out a restraining order against you. Until a court hearing next month, you’re not to be within 500ft of him or the children.’
I listened, shocked, as she explained Paul had gone to the police station with a scratch on his neck, telling them I’d attacked him. ‘He’s lying!’ I screamed.
But the officer continued. ‘You can’t stay in the house, either,’ she said. ‘You’ve got 15 minutes to pack a bag and find somewhere to stay until the hearing.’
I opened my mouth to object again, but what was the use?
Paul was a policeman. He’d even written the restraining order himself.
I didn’t stand a chance.
For the next few weeks, I stayed with Mum and Dad.
I had to go to the station to take a lie detector test. But I still had to wait until the hearing before I could see the kids again. It was agony.
Was Paul treating them okay? Was he reading to them at night? Helping Elyse with her homework like I did? I tried to shut out the worry. He’d never do anything to hurt them – just me.
Finally, sitting in the courtroom a month later, the judge immediately threw out the restraining order.
I sagged with relief. But until proper provisions could be made, a temporary custody arrangement meant I’d have the kids four days a week and Paul would have them the remaining three.
‘We’ll meet again next Monday to see how things are working out,’ the judge said.
Seeing the kids again, I sobbed as they ran into my open arms.
‘We missed you, Mummy,’ Elyse, 10, hugged me.
‘Me, too,’ I smiled. ‘We’ll never be apart again, though, I promise.’
Taking them back to my parents was bliss. I made the most of every moment, taking them to the cinema and park. I took Elyse to get her ears pierced, and I bought Ian a new football shirt.
‘I look like you now,’ Elyse beamed at me, flashing the green gemstones in her ears.
‘Very grown-up,’ I agreed.
Tucking them into bed each night, I lingered longer than usual, watching them sleep.
When the time came for my parents to drive them to Paul’s, I had to literally peel Ian, nine, off me. ‘I don’t want to go,’ he sobbed. ‘I want to stay with you, Mummy.’
‘It’s just for a few days,’ I said. ‘You’ll be back soon.’
Watching them drive away, my heart lurched.
I hated seeing them upset. I’d make it up to them next week…
Sitting in the courtroom on Monday, waiting for Paul and the kids, though, an uneasy feeling crept over me.
After half an hour, a police officer drove me to the house to find out what was going on.
Pulling up outside, everything looked normal. Paul’s car was parked on the drive.
But when there was no answer at the door, the officer asked to borrow my door key.
When he came back out, his face was pale. I stepped out of the car trying to gauge his expression. ‘Mrs Terry,’ he started, gently. ‘I’m sorry… your children are dead. We need to ask you a few questions.’
I felt as though my chest would explode from the pain as his words rang in my ears. Dead?!
I barely noticed as I was led to a neighbour’s house, and sat down in front of another officer. I nodded and shook my head, only half-listening as he asked questions.
Odd words filtered through…
‘Gun powder… residue test…’
It was only when someone shone a special torch over my hand, looking for traces of ammunition residue that I realised what was happening… ‘You… you think I killed them?’ I cried, horrified.
Only after more questions and forensic testing did they realise I’d had nothing to do with it.
‘I’m sorry,’ an officer explained. ‘We found your husband and children in the master bedroom…they’d all been shot dead. We had to be sure before we told you…’
Tears blurred my vision as she told me Paul had shot Elyse and Ian while they slept beside him, then turned the gun on himself.
He’d tried so hard to prove he was perfect, but the pressure of people seeing the cracks, of
having to fight things out in court, had forced him to take the coward’s way out.
But even his death he used as a weapon against me – by killing my children, too.
‘He could have taken it out on me,’ I cried. ‘Why Elyse and Ian?’
I could answer that, too. It was because he was a power-hungry bully who wouldn’t see me happy in a hundred years. My only comfort was that the kids wouldn’t have seen what was about to happen, and wouldn’t have felt that fear at the hands of their own daddy.
In October 2005, we held the kids’ funeral at our local presbyterian church.
No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t accept that I’d never see them again. ‘I promised them we’d never be apart,’ I sobbed into Dad’s shoulder.
Months passed and I moved back into the house.
Most people couldn’t understand why I’d want to go back, but I felt closer to the kids, walking into their rooms, looking at their pictures on the walls.
All I wanted to do was wallow in grief.
    By Christmas, I decided to make chocolate sweets, something I’d done every year with Elyse and Ian.
I went to the supermarket for supplies, and that’s how I bumped into John Allen.
He worked there, we’d known each other years.
John was divorced with five grown-up kids.
When we got chatting, something about him lifted my spirits. I found myself smiling again for the first time since Elyse and Ian had died.
After a few weeks, we went out for a drink and, gradually, our friendship grew into something more.
Being with him, and meeting his children,
I felt like I was part of a family again.
Two years later, we got married.
When Paul took our kids away from me, I thought my heart would never heal, and part of my heart will always be empty without my two beautiful children.
But I know they’d want me to
be happy and, one day, as I promised, I will see them again. Leigh Ann Dyal, 46, Windermere, Florida
Leigh Ann Dyal, 46, Windermere, Florida