Brave Trisha Knight, 53, from Measham, Leics explains how her poor boy didn't stand a chance...
It’s easy to be proud of your kids when life is going well for them. It gets harder not to worry when they make choices you don’t agree with. But there wasn’t a day in his life when my son James didn’t have my full support.
He was a cuddly youngster, much quieter than his five brothers and sisters, and shy. I’ll never forget the day when, aged 17, he told me he had a girlfriend.
‘She’s called Becki,’ he said, clearly smitten.
A few weeks later, James brought her home. She was a bubbly girl, and it was obvious she adored my boy.
Puppy love turned into the real thing, and, after three years, James made another announcement.
‘Becki’s expecting,’ he said.
‘Congratulations!’ I cried, over the moon for them both.
James really looked after Becki during the pregnancy, and he worked hard as a general assistant in a supermarket.
In October 2010, their daughter Evie was born.
‘I’m so proud of you,’ I said.
Then, when Evie was just 4 months old, Becki fell pregnant again. And, when Ruby was born, James was as dedicated as ever, working night shifts but getting home in time to let Becki stay in bed for an extra hour.
‘I’ve raised a good man,’ I thought.
Then, at the start of 2015, I noticed a change in James. He’d joined a gym and, as his muscles developed, so did his confidence. He started going out more with his mates.
‘It’s good to see him having fun,’ Becki told me. ‘I go out with my friends, so it’s only fair that James does, too.’
But, as the months passed, cracks started to show in their relationship. Whenever I saw James, he looked fed-up.
‘Becki and I are rowing a lot,’ he told me.
I hoped they’d sort it out. But I also sensed that James wasn’t trying that hard. I’d heard he’d started taking steroids, and even dabbling with cocaine.
I was worried, exasperated.
Becki was getting fed-up, too. James wasn’t coming home after nights out, and, when she quizzed him, he’d storm out.
If I tried to talk to him, he’d change the subject. I hated it.
By October that year, James had changed from a skinny, 10st, shy boy into a 15st bodybuilder.
It was then that he called me.
‘Becki’s thrown me out,’ he said. ‘I’m staying with mates.’
I wasn’t surprised. But then, a week later…
‘I’ve met someone else,’ he said.
I was shocked, but I had to support my son.
His new partner was called Emma-Jayne Magson, and he’d moved into her house.
A few weeks later, he brought her to meet me. She seemed friendly enough, and I vowed that I’d give her a chance.
To begin with, things went well. James had his girls to stay at weekends, and Emma-Jayne was keen to make a good impression.
But, within months, he started to look worn down. I knew he wasn’t seeing the girls much, and he and Emma-Jayne were arguing.
‘You could always end things with her,’ I said tentatively.
‘You don’t know her,’ he sighed.
Days later, James said Emma-Jayne had suffered a miscarriage. I went round to see them, but Emma-Jayne was in a bad mood.
‘I’ll see you soon,’ I said as I left.
‘OK, Mum,’ James said.
I texted him over the next couple of days, but didn’t hear back.
Eight days later, I couldn’t sleep, and, at 3.45am, my youngest son Jack rang.
‘James has been in a fight with bouncers,’ he said.
‘What?’ I gasped, shaking my partner Bill awake.
James was in Leicester Royal Infirmary. He’d been stabbed.
As Bill drove me there, I told myself if James was in hospital, he must be OK. But, when we arrived, Bill, Jack, my eldest son Kevin and I were taken into a side room.
‘I’m so sorry,’ a doctor said. ‘We did everything we could, but I’m afraid James has passed away.’
My whole world seemed to be collapsing around me.
‘Can I see him?’ I asked.
But police had to do forensic tests, so I couldn’t. There was no sign of Emma-Jayne at the hospital.
Jack had a theory.
‘She’s got something to do with this,’ he said. ‘Why would a bouncer stab him?’
I looked at Kevin. He only lived a few doors away from James and Emma-Jayne, and he’d been with them that evening.
‘They’d been rowing after they got home,’ he agreed.
I couldn’t take anything in.
Later, at home, police arrived.
‘Emma-Jayne Magson has been arrested on suspicion of murder,’ an officer explained to us.
The news spun in my head, but I was too numb to ask questions.
Over the next few days, I learned that James and Emma-Jayne had been for a night out. But, when they’d got home, they were arguing, and it was thought Emma-Jayne had stabbed him.
Kevin knew more, as he’d been there. But he couldn’t talk about it in any detail, as he was going to be called as a witness at Emma-Jayne’s trial…
I went to see James in the hospital morgue, but wasn’t able to hug him. I hated Emma-Jayne for robbing me of the chance to hold my son one final time.
And then Becki came to see me. She and the girls were heartbroken.
‘They don’t have a daddy any more,’ she wept.
It was tragic.
Then I somehow planned my son’s funeral. The day itself was torture. And, afterwards, I felt like I was in limbo as we waited for the trial, unable to grieve.
In November last year, Emma-Jayne Magson, 23, appeared at Leicester Crown Court and pleaded not guilty to murder.
I listened in horror as the court was told that, after she and James had returned home, drunk and rowing, Magson had picked up a steak knife and stabbed my son on the doorstep of their home.
Somehow, James had staggered to Kevin’s house.
Magson went, too, and told him that James had been fighting with bouncers. Unaware of what’d happened, Kevin helped carry James back to the house, thinking he was just drunk.
One witness heard James say, ‘My heart is bleeding,’ but he thought he meant it metaphorically after the row with Magson.
Magson refused to give evidence in court, but had told police she’d stabbed James in self-defence. But it was another 40 minutes before she called 999 for help. And, even then, she failed to mention she’d stabbed James, suggesting to the operator that he may have been pretending to be unwell.
When told the ambulance might be delayed, she replied, ‘No, that’s fine, don’t worry about it.’
Emma-Jayne Magson was found guilty, and sentenced to 17 years in prison for murder.
The judge said she’d shown no remorse, and that there was a chance James could’ve lived had she called for help earlier.
I had to bury my boy because of her, and his two little girls will grow up without a daddy. I can never, ever forgive her.
Magson is appealing her conviction.
‘How can I ever explain?’
The mother of James’ children, Becki Waite, 27, says, ‘When James went off the rails and started dabbling in drugs, he suddenly changed from the man I’d fallen in love with when we were just 17.
‘I’d hoped if I gave him enough space, he’d one day sort himself out. Not for one second did I ever think the woman he left me and the girls for would murder him. She took away my first true love and robbed my children of their precious daddy.
‘When I explained to them Emma-Jayne had hurt James and he was now in Heaven, Evie, 6, said, “Why was Daddy stolen? How will he know it’s my birthday?”
‘How can I ever explain to my daughters what that woman did? They’d started to like Emma, and, as much as it hurt me, she’d become a major part of their lives.
‘At James’ wake, Ruby, 4, said, “We’re at a wake now, so Daddy will wake up, won’t he?”
‘One day, the girls will learn all the awful details of their dad’s needless death. But I’ll always make sure they know how much James adored them.’