I watched as my daughter Madelaine, 11, combed through her dog Lola’s coat of hair.
She was just back from the grooming parlour and Madelaine was determined to keep her looking good.
Especially as we were on a muddy campsite…
‘Can I get a bow like Lola’s, mummy?’ Madelaine asked, fixing a pink ribbon on Lola’s head.
‘Of course you can, darling,’ I smiled.
‘We’ll be like twins, Lola,’ Madelaine giggled, ruffling her fur.
My husband Gavin Watson, 30, had bought the poodle-spaniel cross two years earlier.
She’s been a Christmas present for Madelaine and the pair soon became the best of friends.
Lola was Madelaine’s shadow.
We’d come to the campsite in Whitby, North Yorks, to attend the annual Scooter rally.
As a family we toured round the UK every year, attending all the annual shows.
Gavin and I both had a Lambretta scooter each and the kids loved coming along.
My parents, Lynn and Mark had a caravan at the site, so it seemed like the ideal place to stay.
They raved about the place all the time, and it was dog friendly.
‘Put Lola into the cage in the tent now, love,’ I said. ‘We’re going to get some dinner.’
‘But mum,’ Madelaine sulked. ‘Can she not come with us?’
‘I’m afraid not darling,’ I said.
Leaving Lola in her cage in the tent, we headed to the campsite bar to find Gavin, and our son Harry, seven.
We spotted them on one of the benches outside chatting to one of the regulars, Michael Turford, 32.
We’d been chatting to him earlier at lunch, and he seemed really friendly.
‘Ready?’ I asked cheerfully.
‘Yep,’ Gavin nodded.
‘Michael says there’s a good pub a ten-minute taxi ride up the road, if you fancy it?’
‘They do a fantastic roast,’ Michael said, turning to me. ‘And they usually have a DJ on for the kids.’
‘Sounds great,’ I replied.
After a meal and drinks at the pub, we headed back to the campsite around 9pm.
Pulling up outside the clubhouse, everybody in the beer garden looked our way. ‘Why’s everybody staring?’ I asked Gavin.
‘Stop being paranoid,’ he said, shaking his head.
But as we got out of the car, a woman came running over to us. ‘Your dog’s escaped,’ she said. ‘She ran into the clubhouse.’
We’d been there for lunch with her earlier in the day.
‘She must have been looking for us,’ I thought to myself.
Madelaine began to sob beside me. ‘I want my dog,’ she wailed.
‘Don’t worry darling,’ I said, putting my arm around her. ‘We’ll find her.’
The woman didn’t know where Lola had gone and her face looked anxious.
I feared there was more to the story than she was letting on.
We went in search for Lola. After trudging through the fields for an hour, I received a call from my mum. She’d found her.
I breathed a massive sigh of relief. ‘Thank god,’ I said. ‘Where is she?’
‘In one of the fields,’ my mum replied. ‘But she’s acting weird, Kelly.’
‘What do mean?’ I asked.
‘She’s wouldn’t come to me when I called her,’ my mum said. ‘Then when I managed to grab hold of her, she was trembling.’
Something must have spooked her, I thought.
On the way back to the tent, one of the farmers came to talk to me. ‘Is the dog okay?’ he asked.
‘Yes thank you, I replied. ‘She’s just a little shaken.’
‘She would be after that,’ the farmer said.
I stopped in my tracks and looked up at his face.
He looked uneasy. ‘After what?’ I said, my eyes narrowing.
The farmer looked at the ground and shifted uncomfortably.
Finally, he explained…
‘When she ran into the pub, Michael grabbed hold of her by the neck,’ he said. ‘Then he threw her out of the door onto the decking.’
I gasped in horror. ‘Why would he do that?’ I said. ‘She’s tiny.’
I rushed back to the tent to tell Gavin what had happened.
His face filled with fury, and he stormed towards the car.
‘Don’t Gavin,’ I said, but he refused to listen.
Jumping in the car, he screeched off to the clubhouse to confront Michael.
My dad and I chased after him on foot, but when we got to the clubhouse he wasn’t there.
People told us Michael had made a swift exit to another pub in town.
On our way, my dad turned to me. ‘I don’t think Michael would do that Kelly,’ he said. ‘It seems completely out of character.’
‘I hope Gavin has calmed down then,’ I replied. I took out my phone and punched in Gavin’s number.
As soon as he answered, I started shouting down the phone.
‘Gav, what if we’ve got the wrong person,’ I spluttered.
Before I could finish he cut me short. ‘Go home Kelly, don’t come up here,’ he said.
The tone in his voice made me tense. ‘What’s happened?’ I demanded.
There was a heart wrenching pause for a second, then..
‘He stabbed me,’ Gavin croaked.
My head began to whirl, and suddenly I felt sick.
‘Wh-what do you mean,’ I gasped.
‘Just go back to the tent, Kelly,’ Gavin said sternly. Then the line went dead.
I refused to listen, and my dad and I raced towards the pub.
So many questions and scenarios were flying through my head. Everything just seemed surreal.
When we got to the pub, a crowd of people were huddled around Gavin.
‘Let me through!’ I yelled, fighting my way through.
Michael was nowhere to be seen. ‘Get her out of here,’ I heard Gavin shout from behind the crowd.
He knew I was squeamish and the sight of blood made me nauseous.
‘I just wanted to know you were okay,’ I said. My head felt dizzy.
‘I’ll be fine, just go to the kids,’ he pleaded.
I desperately wanted to hold him, but he was just trying to protect me.
I returned to the camp to comfort the kids, while Gavin was rushed by ambulance to hospital in Whitby. Dad went with him.
Gavin had been stabbed three times in the guts, just above the spleen and close to his lungs right near his heart.
His lungs had collapsed, and his chest had to be drained. He was lucky to be alive.
I waited up all night, terrified of what news would come. ‘What if he dies, mum?’ I cried.
Hours later, the phone rang…
‘He’s going to be okay,’ Dad explained. I wept with relief.
Gavin spent the next four days in hospital, and had to take another six weeks off work.
We told the kids a bad man had punched daddy in the stomach. Michael was arrested the following day.
Ironically, he was walking his dogs when they found him.
Giving evidence in court during the week-long trial was terrifying, but it was worth it.
In February this year, Michael Turford, 32, was found guilty at York Crown Court of wounding with intent.
He was cleared of attempted murder.
The court heard, Gavin had confronted Michael about what he’d done to Lola, and an argument broke out.
It was when Gavin was walking away, Michael had struck from behind.
Turford claimed Lola had bit him, but there were witnesses to say that wasn’t the case.
He also claimed he’d stabbed Gavin in self-defence, but a jury agreed with the prosecution that he deliberately opened the blade
The judge jailed him for seven years.
I suppose I feel justice has been done, but I don’t think Michael has remorse about what he did. He was laughing in court.
Now, Gavin has made a full recovery and is back at work.
The incident has knocked his confidence, but as a family we’re working through it. We’re all closer than we ever were before.
Lola’s still nervous around strangers and whimpers when she’s left on her own.
But with the right amount of care and affection, we’ll get her back to normal again.