Five years ago Emily Longley was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Today, her father Mark writes about the terrible toll of losing his daughter -- and the hope that her story can help others as the Herald launches a series on family violence.
It was the last time I saw my daughter Emily alive. After coming to New Zealand for an Easter holiday visit she was heading back to England. I gave her a long hug and we talked about her coming back in September for the Rugby World Cup.
I didn't know that would be the last time I would hug her. If I had I wouldn't have let her go.
As I drove away from the airport she texted me. "It was so good to see you, love you." I still have the text.
The next time I saw Emily she was lying on a table in a morgue, her life so cruelly taken away from everyone who loved her.
Five years ago today in England Emily was murdered by her ex-boyfriend Elliot Turner. She had broken off her relationship with him and he said if he couldn't have her no one would.
He gave no thought at all for the people who for 17 years had loved, nurtured and raised Emily. He stood behind her, put his arm around her neck and choked the life out of her. Even as I write these words five years later I still can't believe someone would do a thing like that, especially to Emily.
All anniversaries are hard. Birthdays are hard. Christmas is hard. Easter is also tough because it was the last time I really spent time with her.
But today, the day she died, is the hardest of all.
On May 6, five years ago Emily was still alive, I spoke to her. We talked via Facebook just hours before it happened. She seemed normal, happy, not a hint of what was about to unfold.
On May 7 it all changed.
I was woken by my phone ringing. By the time it registered and I was awake enough to answer it was a missed call from my ex-wife Caroline's home. There was also a text from my mother asking me to call. There was now an answer message as well.
Text messages from my mother were not uncommon. Emily would often go out and not return home. I checked the answer message first. It was from my other daughter Hannah who was crying down the phone asking me to call. In the background I could hear Caroline wailing "Emily's dead, Emily's dead".
I called my mother and she put me on to a policeman who told me Emily was dead and two men had been arrested. I don't remember the rest of the conversation. I sat down on the same sofa Emily had been sitting on just a week before telling me what she was going to do when she finished college and I thought that can't be true. How can the girl who was here so alive be dead now?
I called Caroline's house.
I don't remember much more of that night. I don't think I slept until I was on the plane back to England.
I remember being driven to Auckland and stopping for petrol at a small town and seeing Emily's picture on the front page of the Herald. I thought I was going to throw up on the forecourt reading the headline.
At the airport people were throwing their copies in the bin and I wanted to tell them who she was and they should keep them.
I arrived in England after what seemed like an eternity. By this point I was numb and had convinced myself this was all a big mistake and it wasn't Emily who had died.
I was taken straight to the morgue where Emily's body was. I was praying it would be someone else. I stood in a room with a policeman, Caroline and the mortician, who pointed to a window and said Emily's body was in a room next door.
He said a light would come on slowly in that room and through the window I would be able to see her body. When I was ready I could go into the room.
The light came up and I was readying myself to say it wasn't her.
But it was.
She was lying on the bed covered in a purple sheet. She looked like she was asleep.
I went into the room and was now thinking she was going to sit up and say boo and laugh at this joke she had played on me. I would get cross then laugh myself.
But she didn't.
I went over and touched her face. She had this wonderful alabaster complexion and her skin was smooth, but it was ice cold.
And then it hit me and a thousand voices rose up inside me all wanting to shout no. I felt a cataclysmic shift, like tectonic plates moving below the ground, as my, our, worlds suddenly adjusted to not having Emily in them.
I wanted to run out and pretend I hadn't seen it. But I stood there holding her hand and looking at the face I had looked at so intently when she was born. Except the eyes were closed now and I realised this was no joke, she was not going to sit up and say 'boo'. Emily, my daughter, was dead.
At that point all your tomorrows become yesterdays as a thousand emotions hit you, bombarding you and overwhelming you. One emotion I remember was knowing there was nothing I could do for Emily. This was not a problem that I could fix. I was helpless.
And yet for all the pain you feel the overriding emotion is such a deep, deep sense of sorrow for what has happened to your child, that their life has been cut so tragically short.
I remember the day she was born as if it were yesterday. It was February 22, 1994 in a hospital in London. Friends of mine laughed when I told them I was going to be a father. I didn't blame them, I was 26 and about as unprepared for fatherhood as it was possible to be.
But shortly after she arrived the midwife cleaned her and handed her to me.
I held her in my arm with her head in the palm of my hand and her feet by my elbow and Emily, unusually for a newborn, opened her eyes and stared at me. I looked back at her and we sat there for what seemed like an age gazing at each other. I knew in that moment fatherhood was going to be okay.
I figured if I kept her warm and safe and she knew I loved her it would be a good start.
When Emily was 10 we moved to New Zealand. It was an upheaval for her and our other daughter Hannah but Emily's health was not great and we were told London was not the best environment for her. So we headed halfway around the world in the hope it would be better here. And it was.
But, in 2010 Emily decided she wanted to move back to England to study. We were back in the UK for Christmas and friends of hers were going to a college called Brokenhurst. Emily went along, decided she liked it, got herself an interview and a place.
That was Emily. Even at a young age once she set her mind on something you just kind of buckled up and went along for the ride, hoping she came out of the other end okay.
So at the end of 2010 she headed over to England to live with my parents in Bournemouth, a town on England's south coast.
Looking back on it now I can't believe we let her go, but making the right decision for your child as a parent can be tough and hindsight is always a wonderful thing.
It seemed to be a decision, though, that was paying off. Emily, who had struggled at school, took to the more relaxed college life and was blossoming.
Her tutor sent me an assignment she had handed in on the days before she died and was graded a distinction. Another tutor said pupils like Emily were the reason he taught. I almost fell off my chair.
It was a far cry from the teachers who would breathe a big sigh of relief at the end of the school year when she moved on. I was so proud of her.
By the time she came home at Easter in 2011 for a holiday she was a young woman, beautiful, radiant and just so full of life.
I remember at the time just being so happy she was home and she, Hannah and I hung out like we used to. It was at the end of that visit she sent me the text.
Here is the thing about death, it sucks. It doesn't matter if it is your child, your partner or your 100-year-old grandmother -- it sucks. That a person is there one day and not the next, well, it is not something we can deal with easily.
That day at the morgue was the last time I saw her. Because it was a murder inquiry the police kept her body and it wasn't until September she could come home, but in a closed casket.
A year later almost to the day Elliot Turner was sentenced to 16 years in prison for murder.
Simon Jones, one of the successful prosecuting team, said after the verdict Emily's death was a "case of domestic violence".
It hadn't occurred to me before that but after the dust of the trial settled I began to research family violence and there were common threads running through the way Turner behaved and the way abusers behave.
Isolation, power, control, verbal and physical intimidation. It was all about Turner wanting someone he could control, and when Emily wouldn't play the game he killed her.
The judge, when she sentenced Turner to 16 years in prison, summed it up perfectly: "Loving someone is not seeking to control that person's life, not telling someone they are a whore and not slagging them off to friends. You did not love her -- she was just a trophy. The relationship, if that's what it can be called, was all about you.
"It was about control, which you carried out using aggression and threats.
"You could not be seen to be dumped by her or be seen to look like an idiot in front of your friends.
"Your anger grew, your resentment built up and festered.
"Your arrogance during your relationship with Emily Longley, during your time on remand and even throughout this trial has been breathtaking.
"In my judgment, it's apparent you had been thinking of killing Emily and it was only a matter of time before it happened because it's clear she wanted to be free from you and you would not let that happen -- if you could not have her no one else would."
Those could be applied to the many men who abuse their wives and children.
There were warning signs with Emily, one of the most obvious was Turner told his friends he was going to kill her. He even practised killing her with one friend. But for us there were no signs. Emily barely talked about him to me. I wish she had said something.
He had been violent to Emily before she came back to New Zealand but she said nothing. I don't know why but things could have been very different now if she had.
Since her death I have campaigned to try and raise awareness about family violence largely through my involvement with White Ribbon and one of the driving reasons is because death is final and absolute.
There was nothing I could do for Emily and we need to act when we see family violence happening before it is too late. We also need to acknowledge family violence is something that exists in every level of society.
I don't think about Turner much now, or his family. He is in prison and I hope he suffers every day. If I dwell on what he did too much the anger rises and it is the type of anger that can consume you.
I still think about Emily every day. The pain of losing someone doesn't get any easier and time does not heal. You just learn to live with it. There were times, in the days and months after she died, when if someone had said 'if you close your eyes you won't wake up', I would have closed them.
When you go through grief counselling there is a big emphasis on reinvesting in life. It took me a long time to understand this. The life I was supposed to invest in was a life without Emily. It wasn't the life I had envisaged or wanted.
But at some point you make the choice.
I have a lot to be thankful for now five years on.
I have remarried and have a wonderful wife, Hilary, we have a beautiful 2-year-old son, Hunter. My other daughter Hannah, Emily's younger sister, has graduated from uni and is now blossoming into an amazing woman. Emily's mother Caroline is in a good relationship. We all have a lot to be thankful for.
We just wish Emily was here to enjoy it all as well.
Everyone always commented and still do on how beautiful Emily was. And she was, but she also had a great sense of humour and a warm heart. I remember times -- you kind of had to be there moments -- when she would find something funny and her giggle would turn to hysterics. And she would forget what she was laughing at. She was always ribbing me, it was a challenge for her to find new ways to make herself laugh at my expense.
She had a wonderful warm and loving side to her nature. She would come up to you and wrap her long arms around you and give you a big hug.
When I see her in my dreams she always gives me a big hug.
I miss coming home and seeing her and chatting and her asking me some random question about something she may have learned at school. Like: "Dad is it true that all roads really lead to Rome?"
Or she would have confused doughnut glazing with window glazing and would have spent the class wondering why anyone would use sugar glazing on their house.
But most of all I miss seeing the woman she would have become. I miss seeing the life she was denied unfold. We had a brief glimpse of the woman she was becoming and I was so proud of her.
I am her father and of course am biased but the world really was a better place with her in it. It was certainly a lot more fun.
I have a tattoo that says: "Let death not boast its conquering power, she'll rise a star that fell a flower."
They are not my words, I have borrowed them, but they sum up so perfectly for me Emily's death.
• In Monday's Herald: Why is family violence so prevalent in New Zealand and what exactly is it?
• Jealousy: Turner would get angry if Emily talked to other boys. He took her phone and texted all her male friends pretending to be Emily and saying she no longer wanted to be friends with them.
• Emotional abuse: If he didn't like what she was wearing he would say she "looked like a whore"
• Physical abuse : He held her by the throat on a number of occasions and also punched her in public
• Control: He would hack into her Facebook page and keep tabs on what she was doing and who she was talking to. He would also constantly turn up when she was out.
• Intimidation: He used his size and anger to intimidate Emily, she even wrote in a note to him "stop being so aggressive."
• Apologising: Every incident was followed by contrition and an apology, until it happened again.
• Isolation: He tried to separate her from her female friends using a number of different tactics.
• Blame: According to Turner it was Emily's fault if he lost his temper, she made him do it. He even said after he killed her: "That girl ruined my life." To which his mother replied: "She did."
• Threats: The most obvious sign was Turner told people he was going to kill Emily, he even practiced how to do it with one friend.
What happened to Emily's killer
Elliott Turner was jailed for life in 2012 for the murder of Emily Longley.
His mother Anita Turner and father Leigh Turner were also jailed. They were sentenced to 27 months in prison each for lying to police about the incident and destroying a confession note their son had written.
The couple were released in 2013.The same year a bid by Turner to have his sentence reduced was rejected.
However at a hearing in London's High Court, British justices ruled that was not the case.
"...it is clear that for some time, because of wounded pride, he entertained murderous thoughts, which culminated in her death," said Lord Chief Justice Royce Justice Globe in their judgement.
If you're in danger NOW:
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you
• Run outside and head for where there are other people
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you
• Take the children with you
• Don't stop to get anything else
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay
Where to go for help or more information:
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• ShineFree national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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New Zealand has the worst rate of family violence in the developed world. One in three women will be subjected to physical or sexual violence from a partner at some point in their lives.
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