Too angry to say goodbye
Carole Ferguson, 66, from ellesmere Port, is tormented by guilt after her tragic loss
My husband David, 66, smiled as he recorded our grandsons David, 18, and Daniel, 16, laughing and joking.
‘Happy Christmas, Nan,’ Daniel smiled, handing me a gift bag.
Inside was a £60 tablet. ‘You shouldn’t have spent your pocket money on me, love,’ I gasped.
‘You do so much for me,’ he smiled. ‘You deserve something nice.’
Hearing that meant more than all the presents in the world.
2016 and the last few years hadn’t been easy.
Daniel and David had lived with us since
2014, after their parents had split.
At our time of life, looking after teenagers was hard work. But I loved the very bones of those boys.
Daniel struggled at school and, at 15, he was excluded, but he found a local apprenticeship at Hayrack Church Farm. He’d muck out the ponies and feed the pigs.
‘I love it, Nan,’ he beamed in January 2017.
Every afternoon, he’d come home for tea. Then he’d sit on the floor, with me on the armchair, while I played Candy Crush on my new tablet. By now, his brother had left home. And though Daniel was 16, we still had strict house rules. He had to ask before he went out with his mates. ‘Home by 9pm,’ I’d say. There were a lot of dodgy teens around, taking drugs.
‘I’d never do that,’ Daniel said, shaking his head. I believed it, too.
He spent most of the time hooked up to his Xbox.
That’s what he was doing when I popped my head round the door to say goodnight at 10pm on 8 March 2017. ‘Night, Nan,’ he smiled. Soon, I was out for the count. Next morning, I awoke when the doorbell rang at 6am. Who’s calling at this time?
I opened the door to find two police officers.
‘Your grandson Daniel’s in hospital,’ one said.
‘No, he’s in bed,’ I replied. I turned around and rushed to his bedroom. Empty. Daniel must have snuck out in the night.
The police said he’d been found lying injured in a street
in Ellesmere Port.
Earlier, he’d been seen roaming around town with some lads. Taking drugs. ‘Daniel would never do that,’ I insisted.
They assured me it was true. I was devastated.
Then the anger came. How dare he?!
‘Daniel’s OK, he’s chatting to the doctors and nurses about Xbox games,’ the officer said. Then...
‘Would you like to see him?’ I wanted to rush straight there and wrap my arms around him.
But I was furious that he’d put himself in danger and broken the law.
‘I’m too angry to see him right now,’ I said. ‘I’ll wait until he’s brought home.’
Agreeing with me, my husband David went to work, saying, ‘I’ll talk to him tonight.’
After the police had left, I marched to Daniel’s bedroom and shoved his beloved Xbox in a bin bag.
‘He’s not playing that again,’ I fumed.
I was still seething when the phone rang at 8.15am.
It was a nurse from the
I miss him terribly – and have a message for all parents of teenagers...
Countess of Chester Hospital. ‘I’m afraid Daniel’s taken a turn for the worse,’ they said. My veins turned to ice.
‘I’ll be right there,’ I said. I drove to the hospital and found Daniel in a bed, unconscious, on life support... his organs failing.
‘My poor boy!’ I wept.
Why didn’t I come sooner? But no-one – not the police or the doctors – had predicted this.
As family gathered, Daniel fought for his life.
Over the next 12 hours, his heart stopped five times. Each time, the doctors brought him back.
In the relatives room, the consultant kept us updated, but each time the news was worse than the last.
I went in to see him, his heart desperately pumping away, attached to machines, his body covered in wires.
‘Come on, Daniel,’ I said. But I had to leave, it was too much to bear.
That evening, his heart stopped – and this time, despite the hard work of hospital staff, he couldn’t be saved.
‘He’s gone,’ the doctor said. I was lost in grief.
The devastation worsened when police revealed the horrifying truth of what had happened that night.
Daniel had snuck out in the early hours to meet some so-called friends, and taken MDMA for the first time.
The lads had then beaten him up while he’d been out of his mind on drugs.
The police had found him with serious but not lifethreatening injuries. No-one could have known he’d suffer organ failure in hospital.
In April 2017, we held a beautiful funeral at Hayrack Church Farm, where Daniel had been so happy.
But, afterwards, sitting alone on the sofa, I wept with guilt.
‘If only I’d gone to hospital straight away,’ I sobbed.
At least I’d have been able to say goodbye.
The first Christmas without him was agony. We watched the video of us opening his gifts the previous year, and cried.
Struggling to cope, I had grief counselling and went to see the consultant and nurse who’d treated Daniel that night.
They reassured me he’d been chatting away, hadn’t known he was dying or been frightened. It was comforting.
This summer, we went to Chester Crown Court, where three of the lads who’d been with Daniel that night were on trial for attacking him.
The assault and the handing over of a class-a drug were not linked to the cause of his death, but the court heard the lads had repeatedly beaten Daniel after he’d taken drugs and was at his most vulnerable.
CCTV footage showed him looking intoxicated, squaring up to one of the group at 3.50am.
He threw a punch and was pushed to the ground in retaliation. The gang then punched and kicked him.
Daniel scrambled to his feet, but one of the gang punched and pushed him.
Another fight broke out again later and Daniel was punched to the ground again.
The court heard that a post-mortem had found Daniel had three fractured ribs, and had died of a drug overdose, but that the assault was not linked to his death.
Judge Patrick Thompson said Daniel had taken a number of drugs, including the MDMA pill, and he stressed that the three defendants were not facing manslaughter charges.
Still, I wept with relief when Nathan Green, 18, was jailed for 48 months after admitting assault causing actual bodily harm, supplying Daniel with a class-a drug on the night of his death and offering to supply both class-a and -B drugs.
Stewart Tallis, 19, and Jamie Carter, 19, were both convicted of assault occasioning ABH and each sentenced to 12 months in a young offenders institution.
Carter also received two months detention after being convicted of public nuisance.
Two boys aged 16 and 17, who can’t be named, admitted one count of ABH each and were sentenced separately at a youth court. The 16-year-old was given an eight-month detention and training-order sentence, which was reduced to six months on appeal. The other received a 12-month rehabilitation order, plus court costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £20.
Seeing them jailed didn’t lessen the pain of losing Daniel. I miss him terribly, and just wish I could have said goodbye.
I want to urge all parents of teenagers to check they’re in bed before you go to bed and if you get up in the night.
If I’d have done that, I might still have my boy.
Instead, this Christmas I’ll be watching the video of Daniel laughing by the tree again, and remembering just what I’ve lost.
I loved the very bones of David and Daniel
Daniel on the farm