I had a bad feeling about my mum’s new boyfriend, but I could never have guessed how he’d come between us… By Hayleigh Mullings, 22

I stretched out in bed and rolled my eyes at the sounds coming from the kitchen. 

‘Is it not a bit early for that?’ I said to Mum, as I went through to make some breakfast.

She was blasting out her favourite reggae tunes as usual. ‘It makes me happy,’ she smiled, happily bopping around. The music wasn’t my cup of tea but I couldn’t deny beats always seemed to lift her mood.

I’m an only child and I’d always had a close bond with my mum. I’d describe her beautiful, kind and so bubbly.

Men were forever trying to woo her but I thought it would take someone really special to deserve my mum. She was independent and didn’t seem to need a man to make her happy.

Then, not too long before Christmas 2016, she started seeing someone.

Ivan was one of our neighbours at our block of flats. She was so excited about the new romance but I was wary.

Ivan was only two years older than me, so it didn’t seem right. I couldn’t imagine ever introducing him to anyone as my stepdad.

Mum was totally head over heels with her new toyboy but I knew she could do better. He never took her out on a date to impress her. They’d just hang around at his place or at ours, listening to music and chatting.

One evening, when Ivan wasn’t around, I decided I couldn’t hold my tongue any longer.

‘Mum, I’m not sure about Ivan,’ I said.

‘Why? He’s amazing, and he just gets me,’ she replied.

It was hard to explain to her, especially when she’d fallen for Ivan so hard. He’d never laid a finger on her and I hadn’t even heard him raise his voice to her.

I couldn’t put my finger on it but something about him gave me a bad feeling.

From then on, me and my partner Chaise gave Ivan a wide berth whenever he was around. We’d make our excuses to snuggle up in the bedroom instead, playing on our games console.

In time, Ivan moved into the flat too. I kept telling Mum I didn’t like him but it didn’t get through. She was blinded by love.

Then, early one Sunday morning in March, Mum and Ivan burst into the bedroom. Chaise and I had been asleep, but not for much longer.

‘Hayleigh, guess what…?’ Mum squealed.

‘Huh, what?’ I groaned, still bleary eyed.

‘We’re getting married!’ she said, with a grin from ear to ear. Ivan was beaming behind her too.

Mum had been telling me for weeks that she wanted to marry Ivan. But they’d only been together for four months, and I thought she was just dreaming.

Surely my fiercely independent mum knew better than to walk down the aisle with a bloke she barely knew?

My heart sank and I was lost for words. But fortunately, before I had to plaster on a fake smile, Mum had dashed off to put her favourite, familiar reggae beats on to celebrate.

Reluctantly, I dragged myself out of bed then got dressed so I could go and join her.

Mum was dancing around the kitchen like she was over the moon. It was hard not to crack a small grin when she looked so happy.

We had a really nice day at home celebrating together. Mum and Ivan were like any newly engaged couple would be. I even took a video on my phone of them dancing together.

I hoped Mum would never actually say ‘I do’ but it was nice to see her smiling.

Eventually, it got late so Chaise and I decided to head to bed.

‘Goodnight princess, see you in the morning,’ Mum said, as we left her and Ivan celebrating in the living room.

We had a bath then got into bed. I could still hear the two of them laughing together, as I drifted off to sleep.

The next thing I knew, it was 5.30am and we were woken by shouting and banging. Chaise and I leapt out of bed, and I heard Mum shouting for help.

I tried to push the living room door open to see what was happening but it wouldn’t budge.

‘Mum!’ I yelled.

‘Hayleigh, if you love me you will call an ambulance,’ I heard her shout. ‘He’s stabbed himself and you need to save him.’

I fumbled for my phone, hands shaking with shock. Meanwhile, Chaise was banging on the living room door.

When the emergency services operator came on the phone I didn’t know what to tell them. I had no idea what was going on but I knew we needed help. I stuttered through our address.

Ivan refused to open the door. But, I could hear him ranting and his words chilled me to the core. He was talking about devil worship.

‘I need to cleanse her soul,’ he was chanting. Then, blood began seeping from under the door. I stepped back in horror, just as Ivan suddenly burst out of the room.

Instinct told me to hide the phone behind me. If he thought the police were on their way, maybe that would make things worse.

He lifted up his top and showed us self-inflicted stab wounds in his chest and stomach.

‘You know I loved her right? I’m sorry, I had to do it,’ he said.

Then, with blood staining through his t-shirt, he calmly walked outside of the flat. I didn’t care about Ivan’s injuries, I wanted to make sure my mum was safe.

So, I rushed through into the living room. When I saw the scene that confronted me, I screamed.

Mum was lying naked on the floor, carefully laid out on her dressing gown. She was covered with blood.

Chaise immediately got down on the floor and tried desperately to revive her. Then, the paramedics arrived.

They did their best but it was too late. Mum had stab wounds to her chest, and one had fatally pierced her heart.

I couldn’t connect with the fact that this was actually happening right in front of my eyes. I’d said goodnight to my mum and now she was gone forever.

Chaise bundled me into his dressing gown then the police drove us to the station. We were interviewed and I told the officers everything I knew.

That wasn’t much though. I didn’t understand how this had happened, or why.

I might not have liked Ivan but he’d never treated my mum badly before. Not even a cross word. He’d proposed to her then hours later he’d killed her.

Meanwhile, no-one had seen him since he’d left the flat. It was 4pm that afternoon before he was eventually picked up and arrested on suspicion of murder.

He’d been seen by a member of the public walking into traffic, semi-naked and still bleeding from the stab wounds. A few days later, he was charged.

It was a small comfort knowing that at least Ivan had been caught. But I struggled to come to terms with my grief.

Chaise and I couldn’t go back to the flat as it was a crime scene. We were put up in a hotel for a while, and then moved into a hostel.

All I wanted was my home comforts around me to provide a tiny bit of normality. But Ivan had even taken that from me.

We had Mum’s funeral on May 10th at Croydon Crematorium. It wasn’t an expensive service but it was rich in feeling. There were more than 100 people there to pay their respects to my much-loved mum.

I tried to give a tribute but it was hard to find the words. Mum was only 38 and none of this made sense.

Then, the next hurdle to face was the court case. Ivan denied murder and tried to hide behind a defence of mental illness.

It terrified me that he might get away without a proper punishment. Ivan wasn’t mentally ill, he was a monster.

Chaise and I pledged to stay as strong as we could to give our evidence. It was heartbreaking having to relive that night over and over. But it was the only thing we could do for Mum. We couldn’t bring her back, so we were determined to get her justice.

Finally on Monday September 25 at the Old Bailey the jury saw through his lies. Ivan Griffin, 24, was convicted of murder. He is due to be sentenced on October 10.

I’d hoped the court case might bring me some relief but instead I still feel numb. I don’t know why Ivan had to take my mum away from me. And, I expect he’ll never tell the truth about that.

I’ll never understand how he could propose to her, then stab her through the heart.

Hayleigh was heartbroken and horrified when she lost her mum in such tragic circumstances. We helped her put together a tribute piece for women's magazines both in the UK and Australia, raising global awareness of domestic violence. If you have a crime story you'd like to tell, contact our team to find out how it works.


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