Daddy's girl

Keith and his daughter will never be together again- because of a mobile phone

Published by: Laura Hinton
Published on: 16 February 2012

There was nothing worse than when my boyfriend Keith, 36, ignored me as he played on his iPhone. ‘Did you hear me?!' I groaned for the fifth time. ‘I asked you to make me a sandwich.'
All I could hear was the constant bleep of the buttons as he played the new Angry Birds game. It was beginning to grate on me now!
‘What?' he mumbled, eyes not leaving the screen.
‘Will you get off that phone?' I shouted, finally seeing red.
‘Right, I'm not putting up with this,' he huffed, slamming his mobile on the side. The screensaver flashed up with a picture of our beautiful eight-month-old daughter Matilda - she was his world.
‘I'm going out with Deano tomorrow night,' he told me.
‘And I'll stay at his.'
‘Run away, like always,' I spat back at him.
As soon as he'd stomped upstairs, I regretted being so snappy, and started to cry. But even though I knew I'd overreacted a bit, I wouldn't apologise.
Prince, our pet chihuahua, tried to comfort me, curled up between my legs. ‘Just another silly argument,' I sighed, stroking his fur. ‘Over a sandwich of all things! We're both too stubborn
for our own good...'
That was our problem. Neither of us could apologise. In the two-and-a-half years we'd been together, we'd often bickered like this. Keith would just go to his mate Deano's for the night...
when he came back in the morning, everything would be forgotten about. It was our way of dealing with things, and we were actually very happy together!
So, after a night of giving each other the silent treatment, Keith went to work at the clothes shop he managed. We exchanged a few curt emails, then he went to Deano's.
By the time the following morning arrived, I'd forgotten all about our spat - I just wanted to see Keith now.
But at 7am, the phone suddenly rang. ‘Is this the home of Keith Soons?' a man asked me.
‘Yes,' I replied. ‘Why?'
‘A police car will be picking you up in five minutes,' he said. ‘Keith was attacked last night. A detective will drive you to Cheltenham General Hospital.'
Stunned, I didn't even think of asking questions, just quickly got me and Matilda dressed. Thankfully, Jessica, my six-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, had stayed with her dad for the night.
Just moments later, we were being driven to the hospital. ‘Everything will be explained at the hospital,' the officer told me.
‘It's probably nothing,' I kept whispering to myself.
Rushing into the hospital, I was greeted by Keith's parents Penny, 50, and Robin, 58. They looked ashen. ‘He was found at 8am in a pool of blood,' Penny sobbed. ‘They think he was mugged.'
Gulping back tears, I steeled myself to see Keith, while a nurse led me to his bed.
But nothing could have prepared me for how he looked. Bruised and scratched, he had a foil cap on his head, which had swollen to twice its normal size. There was a tube going down his throat, too.
‘The cap is to keep him warm,' a nurse explained. ‘Keith became hypothermic in the cold. Now he's in a comatose state.'
I nodded my head as if I understood, but I didn't really. He was in a coma? ‘We'll be doing some brain scans later to assess the damage,' she added.
‘Come on then, Keith,' I mumbled, gently taking his hand. ‘Wake up and flash that lovely smile at me again.'
That's what had won me over when we'd met in a nightclub. We'd realised we'd had friends in common, so started chatting. But Keith had been such a ladies man!
‘You'll be number seven on my list,' he'd joked. Well, that had been enough to put me off, but Keith had followed me. ‘It's only you I want really,' he'd grinned. ‘Let me prove it to you.'
‘No thanks!' I'd laughed, brushing him off. But he'd sweet-talked me into going back to his that night - and I'd never left. I'd realised this whole Jack the lad thing was a front. Beneath it all, he was sweet, soft and romantic.
‘You'll be the woman I marry,' he'd tell me. ‘Mark my words!'
The memories made my tears fall faster and harder as I sat by Keith's bed now. ‘Remember how I told you I was pregnant with this one,' I sobbed, hugging Matilda close. ‘You were so happy.'
I'd fallen pregnant just nine months after we'd met. I was too excited to keep the news to myself, so I'd taken a picture of the positive pregnancy test and stuck it on Facebook, tagging Keith in it. He was always checking Facebook on that flipping iPhone of his, and I'd soon got a tearful call from him. ‘I can't believe it,' he'd laughed. ‘Brilliant!'
He'd really taken to fatherhood, come to all the scans, read all the books, helped buy nappies... a far cry from the cocky guy I'd first met.
He constantly took snap after snap of our little one on his phone, too - yes, it did come in handy for some things! He had so many precious memories held on it.
‘I'd put up with a lifetime of you playing on that flippin' iPhone, just to hear you speak,' I whispered. But he just lay there... motionless.
Slowly, over the course of the day, pieces of the previous night came together. Deano and Keith had become separated in a nightclub. Keith had walked back to Deano's alone, then text him at about 2am to say he was waiting on the doorstep. Yet, when Deano had got there, Keith was nowhere to be seen.
He'd assumed that his pal had gone home. Instead, he'd been viciously assaulted.
Keith had been found in an alleyway nearby about five hours later. His beloved iPhone, along with the silver ‘Dad' ring I'd bought him from Matilda were missing.
Poor Matilda, she must be so confused as we sat beside her daddy, watching his chest rise and fall as the life support machine pumped air into him.
Normally, whenever Daddy lay on the bed like that, she'd be on his tummy with Jessica and he'd be blowing kisses
to them both.
Closing my eyes, I remembered how, only a few weeks ago, I'd walked into the bedroom and the three of them had been giggling together. ‘What animal sound is this?' he'd asked, neighing.
‘A horse!' Jessica had squealed happily, while Matilda gurgled with excitement.
Sensing a movement in the air, I abandoned my memories and opened my eyes again. Was it Keith coming round? No, it was a doctor.
‘There's nothing more we can do for Keith,' he said, sitting beside me. ‘I'm so sorry. He's brain dead.'
For a second, I thought I'd misheard. ‘You can do something, though?' I replied.
He shook his head. ‘We're so sorry,' he whispered.
It didn't feel real. Not when he took his last breath. Not when I hugged Keith's family, sobbing. Not even when a photographer took photos of him because now this was a murder investigation.
For the next few days, I lived on autopilot. ‘Where's Daddy Keith?' Jessica asked.
‘He's gone away for a while,' I replied. I couldn't admit he was gone to myself, much less explain it to my six-year-old.
At night, I'd sleep on Keith's side of the bed, crying into his pillow. ‘Why did you leave me?' I sobbed. ‘I never got the chance to tell you I loved you.' Our last words to each other had been snappy.
Maybe I'd get the peace I needed if I talked to him now? Three days after his death, I visited the morgue and stared down at my boyfriend. It was Keith, but... he looked so different. So pale and lifeless.
‘I wish we hadn't argued,' I sobbed. ‘I love you.' Gently, I reached out to touch his face - and quickly recoiled. It was hard and icy cold.
Keith really had gone. The brutal reality of his death suddenly became too much, and I ran out of the place.
But as I drove home, I felt like I was leaving a part of me behind.
Somehow, I managed to carry on functioning for the children. At Keith's funeral two months later, I took Prince with me for company. When it got too much, I buried my face in his soft fur.
Instantly, I was reminded of Keith, could hear his voice...
‘This dog is such a babe magnet,' he'd laughed when we'd first got him. ‘All the girls come up to me now.'
‘It's the dog that they love!' I'd teased him.
But as the vicar spoke, reality hit once again. Keith really wasn't here any more. After the service, he was buried along with family photographs.
The funeral didn't make letting go any easier, though. How could it when we'd lost the most important person in our little family? He'd been such a fantastic father to Matilda, and adored Jessica as his own.
They'd constantly gone out on their little journeys together, the two of them. ‘Let's explore,' Keith would say, strapping her in the car seat. They'd be gone for hours!
‘We were picking some strawberries, Mummy,' Jessica had giggled to me when they'd returned from their most recent visit. Her cheeks had been stained red with berry juices.
But that was all over now. And rather than spend some time
playing with the children, I had to appeal to the press for people to come forward with information about Keith's murder.
‘Whoever's done this has taken a father away from his daughter,' I told them. ‘He wasn't violent. He wasn't a nasty man. I can't understand why anybody would do something like this.'
Soon, the police had uncovered CCTV images that showed two men, Michael Sexton, 28, and Richard Smith, 27, walking nearby at the time. One of the men was holding something made of metal that was glinting. After a tip-off, they were arrested and held on suspicion of murder.
Finally, 10 months after that fateful night, the trial began at Bristol Crown Court.
Both men admitted being at the scene of the attack, yet blamed each other for delivering the fatal blow.
I felt disgusted hearing how they'd tried to snatch the iPhone from Keith, kicking and hitting him. But he'd fought for it - fought for all those precious
photos of Matilda that were held on it. ‘You couldn't live without them,' I thought.
He hadn't stood a chance, though. One of the attackers had plunged a screwdriver into his head - right up to the handle. ‘My God,' I croaked, sickened. These men were animals.
When Smith took to the witness box, I caught his eye. Every part of me wanted to go mad and scream at him, but I knew I had to stay dignified. Just moments later, he went beserk, and the trial had to be adjourned for the day. Why? I think he felt such guilt at seeing me that it tipped him over the edge.
To my utter relief, both men were convicted. Smith was jailed for 28 years for murder and six for robbery, to run concurrently. Sexton was sentenced to 25 years for murder and four years for robbery, also to run concurrently.
A detective said afterwards: ‘In 23 years, I've never come across such wanton violence and lack of humanity shown by Smith and Sexton that night.' Too right.
I was pleased justice had been done, but Keith's death seemed so pointless, too. These animals stole a loving father from his family, for the sake of an iPhone. Police never tracked it down either, so all those precious snaps of Keith and Matilda are gone forever.
Even now the trial is over, the pain and sense of loss hasn't gone away. Every time Matilda cries, I wish her daddy could be there to soothe her with his cuddles.
I'm constantly haunted by all the milestones Keith will miss - Jessica and Matilda's birthdays, first boyfriends, first jobs...
I want to keep his memory going. So Matilda, who will be two in three months time, is going to be christened on her dad's birthday, March 23. And afterwards, we'll set off some Chinese lanterns.
Every night before bed, I tell her: ‘Blow daddy a kiss.' She always giggles back, flashing that beautiful, familiar smile. When I see that, I feel such overwhelming love. And through her, I know that Keith's legacy will remain a part of our lives forever.
Samantha Ramsey, 23, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire