THE daughter of the Coleraine pensioner who collapsed and died after confronting a burglar in his Mountsandel home has said her family’s lives have been “destroyed forever”.
Bertie Acheson, 72, who struggled with his attacher in the kitchen of his home in the early hours of last Monday morning, suffered a fatal heart attack.
The intruder snatched a purse containing £375 belonging to Mr Acheson’s wife Sheila, 70, who was in her bedroom at Glenmore Gardens.
In a heart-wrenching interview, the couple’s daughter, Sandra Creelman, described her father’s murder as a “total and utter living nightmare”.
“Our lives have been ruined. It will never be the same again, never. Not for any of us.”
As she clutched her hand of her husband Keith she added that her petrified mum, who suffers severely from arthritis, was too petrified to ever return to her home.
She described her parents as Darby and Joan, totally devoted to one another during 44 years in marriage. She also appealed for the public’s help in finding the killer.
The interview in full:
SANDRA “Dad was quiet, unassuming and very private. He would always put himself last. Everybody was put first. He had the biggest heart of any man I have ever known and I am not just saying that because he was my father. He would have been the first person there to help anybody if they needed help. But he would never ask anybody for anything. He didn’t like to bother anyone. If he was asked ever if wanted or needed anything he would say ‘no, I’m okay. Don’t bother about me.’
He just lived for mum. He looked after her from she got up in the morning until she went to bed at night. He never left her side. Never. They were together 44 years. They were Darby and Joan. They were very very happy together.
KEITH: Bertie was Sheila’s full time carer. Everything he did was for her. The last few years from she got up out of bed in the morning he washed her, dressed her, made all her food and drove her everywhere. It is just unbelievable how he looked after her.
SANDRA: “They holidayed every year together in Jersey up until mum wasn’t able to do it anymore. After that we started to take them wee jaunts to Donegal two or three times a year for weekend breaks. They just loved that. And now there will be no more of those.
“Dad spoke to everybody. He would never pass anybody without saying hello. Even people he didn’t know. He would always say ‘it doesn’t cost anything to be friendly.’ It is just the way he was.”
KEITH: “Up until a short time ago Bertie had a wee dog. He was very health conscious. He didn’t want to put on any weight. He ate healthily and he walked the wee dog every day around the Mountsandel area. I have lost count of the amount of people who have told me that is how they met Bertie. That he would have stopped and talked to them. He always passed the time of day with everyone he met. It helps that people have such lovely memories of him.”
SANDRA: “But they didn’t know him the way we knew him. This has been a nightmare. A total and utter living nightmare. Our lives have just been ruined. It will never be the same again. Never. Not for any of us. Mum will never be in her home again. She is terrified going back into her home again. They stripped my mother of everything she held dear and loved her whole life. The person that did this has destroyed everything. Mum is coping as best she can. Sometimes she is numb, sometimes she cries. She is petrified. She won’t go into a bedroom at night on her own. Somebody has to be with her. She is not sleeping.
I last saw my dad on Sunday night. They come around every Sunday night for dinner. He was in good form. We watched the Antique Roadshow. We always played a stupid game together. We all had to guess what each item was worth. Dad always won. They left at 9.40pm. He hugged me and kissed me like he always does and he told me that he loved me and that he couldn’t do without me. My last words to him were I couldn’t do without you either. And I don’t know how I am going to.
If the person who did this could just see, if he had a heart or a conscience at all and he could just see what he has done. He has destroyed us. My dad was a good, good man. Whoever did this must have family of his own. He must know or he must think about how he would feel if it was his family that this happened to. How would he feel if somebody did that to his father. Look what you have done to us. “
KEITH: It’s not going to bring Bertie back, but for the person who did this to be caught, would give us a type of closure. And from the point of view of other vulnerable, elderly people in the area, it would help to know that this person has been apprehended. It is going to mean that people in this area can sleep better at night.
Bertie was security conscious. Every night, particularly because of Sheila and her lack of mobility, he went around and checked all the doors and windows, everything was locked up.”
SANDRA: Mum made him do it 10 times. She was always asking ‘are you sure the door is locked?’ So he checked it half a dozen times. I am not surprised at all that he confronted the intruder. He would have done anything, I have no doubt about it in my mind, to protect mum and as soon as he heard the glass breaking there is no way that he would have stayed in bed and let whoever that was to come into the bedroom to mum. They were not going to get past dad to get to mum. No way. In the end they did anyway. If there is anything to be thankful for is the fact that mum wasn’t harmed as well.
“As your parents get older you almost start to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to lose them. But how do you ever prepare yourself for this? How can I ever come to terms with how my father was brutally attacked and killed in his own home? How do I watch my mother’s heart breaking knowing that I can do nothing to make it stop? In the early hours of Monday morning somebody robbed my mum of a husband and a carer. He took away my beloved dad and left a grandson without his grandfather. He subjected my mum to a terrifying ordeal and took away the home she shared with my dad because she will never be able to return there. These have been the longest and hardest days of our lives and there will be many more to come. In a few days we will suffer the pain of saying goodbye to dad when we lay him to rest and right now it feels like that pain will never go away.
“I am making this appeal in the hope that I will help to find whoever is responsible for this because it is the last and only thing left that I can do for my dad. I want that person or those close to him to think about what has happened to us, the devastation they have left behind and how many lives have been affected. If anyone can help us find the person who did this to my dad please contact the police.”