Dad was stabbed to death over a ciggie

I was forced to watch his ag­o­nis­ing last mo­ments

Chat - - CONTENTS - April Harris-Parkes, 19, Manch­ester

Sweep­ing me up into a bear hug, my dad Keith Harris grinned. ‘Who fan­cies an ice cream and a trip to the swings?’ he asked. I nod­ded ex­cit­edly.

Dad grabbed our coats and a foot­ball and off we went.

Full of en­ergy and fun, he was al­ways tak­ing me to the beach or the park.

He and Mum had split when I was just 1, and Dad didn’t have much money.

But that didn’t mat­ter to me. I was his adored only child, and he had all the time in the world for me.

He’d pick me up af­ter school, take me for a quick game of footy.

And, on Fri­day nights, I’d go to stay at his par­ents – my grand­par­ents, David and Cath – for the week­end.

Ev­ery cou­ple of years, we’d all go on hol­i­day to Black­pool.

In the weeks be­fore we went, Dad would col­lect all his loose change for me to spend in the ar­cades.

And when we were there, he’d try to win me a big cud­dly toy on the teddy grab­ber.

Then, af­ter we’d spent up, we’d head off to en­joy fish and chips on the sea front.

‘Oh, I do like to be be­side the sea­side…’ Dad would al­ways sing.

He was such a happy soul. When I was 8, he moved away to Black­pool.

It meant we saw less of each other, but Nan and Gran­dad would take me to visit as of­ten as pos­si­ble.

At the start of 2018, Dad moved back to be with his par­ents, who lived in White­field, Manch­ester. His older brother Ian was ter­mi­nally ill with can­cer and Dad wanted to help out.

That was so typ­i­cal of him

– if some­one needed him, he was there.

For my 18th birth­day, in April 2018, Dad gave me £70 he’d saved do­ing odd jobs. It was every­thing he had. ‘Treat your­self, love,’ he said to me, smil­ing.

That sum­mer, I got my­self a new job as a carer.

I was rushed off my feet, do­ing evening shifts in a take­away, too.

Vis­its to Dad be­came few and far between.

When are you go­ing to call in? he mes­saged one evening.

I’ll be round for Sun­day din­ner soon. Prom­ise. I replied.

A few days later, in Au­gust 2018, Dad called to say he’d got a new job as a painter and dec­o­ra­tor.

He hadn’t had per­ma­nent work for ages, so this was big news, and he was so ex­cited. ‘Good luck!’ I said hap­pily. Dad’s first day at work was on 15 Au­gust 2018.

That morn­ing, I was get­ting ready to go to work when my cousin Rachel, 27, called.

Im­me­di­ately, I could hear she was cry­ing.

A feel­ing of panic churned in my stom­ach. ‘I don’t know how to say this,’ she choked. ‘Your dad is dead. He’s been at­tacked. He was stabbed by a to­tal stranger on his way to work.’

‘Are you sure?’ I asked, in com­plete shock.

Then I just burst into tears. In a daze, I got a taxi to my mum’s house.

But I was still in de­nial, con­vinced that it was all sim­ply a big mis­take. ‘It’s true, love,’ Mum said gen­tly. A man had been ar­rested for his mur­der. I spent the rest of the day just star­ing into space, numb. I was still in a daze the next morn­ing, when I went with Nan and Gran­dad to visit Dad in the fu­neral home and say good­bye. But when

I saw him ly­ing there, pale and peace­ful, I broke down, sob­bing. Pulling my bob­ble from my pony­tail, I wrapped it around Dad’s thumb and kissed him. I wanted my beloved dad to have some­thing of

‘Oh, I do like to be be­side the sea­side,’ he’d sing

mine with him, al­ways.

His fu­neral was so tough. And the week af­ter, we all gath­ered for what would have been Dad’s 44th birth­day.

They were dark days, and I strug­gled to carry on.

I had to give up work, and suf­fered anx­i­ety. Some days, I was so heart­bro­ken, I couldn’t face leav­ing the house at all.

In June 2019, Michael Long, 36, ap­peared at Manch­ester Crown Court.

The court heard that Dad had gone for a McDon­ald’s break­fast with his pal Terry Moore, be­fore work that morn­ing.

Then, they were walk­ing to a lo­cal shop at 7.30am to buy lunch for later, when they were ac­costed by Long, who’d de­manded a cig­a­rette.

When they’d re­fused, fu­ri­ous Long had gone to his girl­friend’s house nearby – and armed him­self with a knife.

Re­turn­ing to the shop, Long had pounced on Terry out­side, as Dad bought two milk­shakes. He’d tried to rob him. Terry backed away, man­aged to dodge Long’s knife at first. But then he’d tum­bled through the shop door, and they’d started scrap­ping on the floor.

Dad, who still had his shop­ping in his hands, saw what was hap­pen­ing.

With­out hes­i­tat­ing for a mo­ment, Dad threw him­self in the mid­dle, try­ing to pro­tect his friend.

Then co­caine­fu­elled Long shouted ‘Die!’, be­fore stab­bing Dad three times.

He plunged the knife into Dad’s chest, caus­ing a fa­tal wound.

Watch­ing CCTV footage of the mur­der in court was hor­rific but I had to try to sit through it, to be there for Dad.

He stag­gered around, bleed­ing...dy­ing.

In the end, I fled the court in tears.

Meanwhile, Long tried to claim to shocked staff that Dad had tried to rob him.

Then, as he went to drive off, three times over the limit, he’d col­lided with sev­eral ve­hi­cles.

A fe­male driver in one car suf­fered a frac­tured ster­num af­ter Long’s car smashed into her driver’s side.

Long ad­mit­ted stab­bing Dad, but de­nied mur­der.

He claimed that he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of events be­cause he’d downed at least 12 cans of strong lager and taken two or three grams of co­caine.

But my poor Dad had been all too aware of what was hap­pen­ing.

‘Terry, I’m dy­ing!’ he’d man­aged to gasp to his friend, as he took his last breath. It was har­row­ing. Michael Long was con­victed of mur­der and at­tempted wound­ing with in­tent.

He’d al­ready pleaded guilty to caus­ing se­ri­ous in­jury by danger­ous driv­ing and pos­sess­ing co­caine.

He was jailed for life and will have to serve a min­i­mum of 25 years.

Judge Pa­trick Field QC called Dad’s ac­tions ‘a self­less act of brav­ery’.

I’m glad Long is locked up. But he took my dad’s life – a to­tal stranger – in a sense­less ex­plo­sion of vi­o­lence.

I keep think­ing how scared Dad must have been and it tears me apart to think of how he suf­fered.

But he’ll al­ways be in our hearts. As a dad, a son, a brother – and a true hero.

Dad gasped to his friend as he took his last breath

Long had been drink­ing, tak­ing co­caine

Aged 9, with my dad Keith: he was full of en­ergy and fun

A sense­less act stole my father from me

So much love: I was his only child

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