Dad was stabbed to death over a ciggie
I was forced to watch his agonising last moments
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