When I split from my pregnant wife I could never have guessed the terrible length she’d go to to punish me…
By Nabil Dahane, 36, from Oxford
I looked at my wife’s flat tummy and pictured our tiny child growing in her womb.
Angela had been pregnant for a couple months and it wouldn’t be long until she started to show.
My stomach churned. We both couldn’t wait to become parents but the pregnancy couldn’t save our marriage.
Our child couldn’t erase all the arguments and the months of verbal abuse. I’d had enough.
‘I’m sorry Angela,’ I stuttered, ‘but I can’t do this any more.’
She glared at me with her large brown eyes.
‘You’re not leaving the house,’ she growled. I’d grown terrified of her.
‘I’ll still support you and our child,’ I replied. ‘That goes without saying, of course.’
When I realised she wasn’t going to back down, I changed my tactic. ‘Just give me a few weeks break. Maybe it’s just the pregnancy hormones and everything will return to normal.’
Finally she relented and I packed my bags and left.
Angela and I first met in Morocco, where we fell in love and married in 2007. We moved to the UK to start a new life together and settled in Oxford. But by the time Angela fell pregnant, there was no denying our relationship had disintegrated.
We argued constantly and the wonderful woman I fell in love with seemed to no longer exist. Angela had grown so controlling and abusive that despite our situation, I felt I had no choice but to escape.
When she invited me to the 20-week scan and we found out we were having a girl, I was delighted.
That was until the police showed up at my door to tell me Angela had accused me of attacking her because she wasn’t giving me a son.
She’d made it crystal clear. Angela was going to make my life a misery until she got her way. Thankfully I was finally able to reason with her.
‘We have to give our daughter the best possible upbringing and two arguing parents won’t help,’ I reasoned. Angela nodded and we agreed to keep our relationship amicable for the sake of our child.
However once little Sarah was born in September 2011 nothing else mattered. As I held her in my arms, something inside me changed. I’d fallen instantly in love. Everything I did from now on, I did for Sarah.
‘Look at you two,’ Angela gushed. ‘Daddy’s little girl already.’
I smiled. She was right.
‘Why do we have to separate?’ She asked. ‘Why don’t we try again for the sake of Sarah? We could be a happy family together.’
I loved Sarah and the thought of being able to see her everyday filled me with joy. But I couldn’t take Angela back. I’d felt like a caged animal in our relationship and now I was finally free.
‘You know I can’t,’ I sighed. ‘I’m here for you though and I want to see Sarah as much as possible.’
‘No!’ She spat. ‘You’ll never see Sarah again.’
‘You can’t do this to me,’ I pleaded. I was distraught. We’d agreed to put our differences aside for the sake of Sarah but Angela seemed hellbent on getting her way. Compromise wasn’t in Angela’s vocabulary.
‘Yes I can,’ she cried. ‘I am her mother and I can do what I like. I’ll move her to Kenya and make sure she’s out of your life for good.’
I was devastated. Angela had always been stubborn and selfish but using my child against me was a new low – even for her.
Heartbroken and betrayed, I went through the courts to win visitor rights and over the course of 18 months we endured a bitter custody battle for our child.
It was hell. During that time Angela made false allegations against me including domestic violence and child abduction and as a result I was forced to see Sarah in contact centres with supervision for seven months. I felt like a common criminal. All I wanted was my chance to be a dad.
Over that period she tried her best to disrupt my time with Sarah, relocating to several distant towns as far away as possible within the legal jurisdiction set by the family courts.
But this was a battle I wasn’t prepared to lose, after all my daughter was at stake and I persevered to increase my visitation rights from just one hour to three full days, including two overnight stays.
Although I saw Sarah under supervision, they were the most precious moments of my life. I lived to see my little girl’s happy, beaming smile and to hear her shout ‘Dada’ was like music to my ears. So when I was told a court report in May 2013 had ruled in my favour, I was over the moon.
The very next day, I was due to see my daughter at 9am. I always picked areas where there were lots of CCTV cameras as Angela’s made-up allegations knew no bounds.
I couldn’t wait and arrived at our agreed venue, the local Tesco Express, but there was no sign of her. I waited and waited but when she didn’t pick up her phone, I had an ominous feeling something was wrong. Angela had broken court orders before. She was a law unto herself.
There was nothing else I could do, I had to call the police. They directed me to the nearest station to wait while they carried out checks.
An hour-and-a-half after I was due to see my beautiful 20-month-old girl, an officer guided me into a side room.
‘We are sorry Mr Dahane, but Angela is in Kenya,’ the officer explained.
I burst into tears. Angela had fulfilled her promise and taken Sarah to another continent so I’d never see her again.
‘We searched Ms Whitworth’s property and have found the body of a child,’ continued the officer.
The room began to spin. This can’t possibly be happening.
‘Is it Sarah?’ I sobbed. The officer’s pause said everything. In that instant my world fell apart.
The following day I was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford to identify the body of the child I had spent 18 months fighting tirelessly for.
I knew Angela could be cruel but I had no idea she was capable of such evil. She had told me I’d never see Sarah again but if I’d known of her sickening plan, I would have stayed with her to protect our daughter.
I would have done anything. She murdered our daughter to punish me. If she couldn’t have her, no one could.
Angela’s deceit and manipulative ways had caught up with her so she had used her trump card, Sarah, our daughter. She was a sick psychopath.
She’d booked a same-day flight then hopped on a plane to Kenya leaving me to deal with the loss of my child, the police, the investigation, the media… Everything.
Angela fled to Nairobi but was seized in March this year by Ugandan police. In August she admitted murdering our daughter and in October she was jailed for life, with a minimum term of 15 years.
The prosecution revealed that the police had broken into Angela’s flat and found it in a state of disarray. They’d discovered Sarah’s lifeless body on her tummy in the middle of a bed.
Angela had gagged Sarah with a pair of tights, then smothered her with a bin bag before fleeing.
Watching her shed tears as details of the murder were laid bear for the first time in court made my blood boil. She wasn’t crying for Sarah, she was crying because she’d been caught.
In the period between finding out about Sarah’s death and Angela’s sentence, I have been to hell and back.
But I have survived to see justice served for my innocent child who would have turned five this year had her life not been cruelly and prematurely ended by her mum.
I’ve waited three long painful years but now Angela is finally where she belongs – behind bars.
I still battle every day to come to terms with not just my daughter’s loss but how she died. Sometimes it’s too much to bear.
Parents are supposed to protect their children, above all others. If only I could have protected Sarah from her murderous mother.