I knew my sister’s new boyfriend wouldn’t be around for long. But I could never have predicted the chilling reason why…
By Raisa McKenna, 20, from Livingston, Scotland
Pulling my jacket around my shoulders, I called out to my mum in the kitchen.
‘I’m going to Alami’s, see you later,’ I shouted.
I was 15, and ever since my big sister had moved out to start a family of her own I missed her sorely.
At least she only lived up the road though. She’d rented a house a few doors up from ours, so I still saw her nearly every single day.
We were really close. She never minded me popping over unannounced. And, I loved spending time with my nieces Kayla*, then four, and little Maisie*, one.
So, I dashed down the road and rang the doorbell. Alami swung the door open, giving me a big smile.
‘I’m glad to see you,’ she said, relieved. ‘Will you read the girls a bedtime story while I clear up this mess?’
I looked around, and the living room was the usual chaotic jumble of toys. Alami loved to keep her home looking tidy, so clearing up after her kids drove her mad.
‘Sure, you know I don’t mind,’ I said.
It was the least I could do. When we were growing up, family life wasn’t always easy.
But I always knew that whatever happened I could depend on Alami. She was seven years older than me, and at times she was like my second mum.
She always made sure I got a decent breakfast down me before arriving at the school gate on time.
So, after everything she’d done for me it was time for me to repay her.
And, things had been especially hectic for her since splitting up from the girls’ dad, Simon*, a few months before.
They’d been together five years, and although they were sharing the parenting since the breakup, Alami had a lot on her plate.
I read the girls their bedtime story and gave them goodnight kisses. Then, I headed downstairs for a cuppa and a catchup.
‘What a day,’ Alami sighed, slumping on her big leather corner sofa. ‘I feel like I haven’t stopped.’
She worked hard in her job at the Inland Revenue.
‘I’ll put the kettle on,’ I said. But, before the water had even boiled the doorbell rang again. I silently rolled my eyes. I knew who that would be.
Jamie was Alami’s new boyfriend, and I didn’t like him much. His family was from the same area, so although he was a few years older I felt like I’d always known him.
When Alami told me they’d started seeing each other, my heart sank a little bit. He was only 18, four years younger than my sister.
I could see why having a toyboy would give her a bit of an ego boost.
But, I knew she was too good for him, even if she couldn’t see it. Alami was smart, sassy and independent while Jamie was just a bit of a no-hoper.
Secretly, I thought it was only a matter of time before Alami would get back together with Simon.
In the meantime, Jamie was always hanging around. It was like he was obsessed.
‘Alright?’ he said, giving me a nod as he came in.
I didn’t stick around long. Instead, I made my excuses and went home. As the week went on, I popped into Alami’s every day as I always did.
Then, midweek I went to stay with my uncle. I slept over there with my cousin every single Wednesday without fail. It had become a family tradition, starting when I was young.
We went up to bed, and just as I was drifting off to sleep I heard raised voices downstairs.
I sat up, trying to pick out who was talking. Whoever it was, I could tell something bad was happening.
I crept downstairs and followed the sound into the living room.
My aunt, who lived miles away, was there. As soon as I saw her I could tell that whatever had happened was serious.
As soon as she set eyes on me her face crumbled, tears gushing down her cheeks.
‘It’s Alami isn’t it? What’s happened?’ I cried. I couldn’t explain why, but I had a strange gut feeling that it was my sister.
‘She’s dead,’ my aunt sobbed, rushing forward to hold me.
I had so many questions but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Instead, I was almost hyperventilating with shock.
My uncle pressed a cup of tea into my trembling hands and steered me to sit down.
‘We don’t know what’s happened yet,’ he explained, sadly.
‘I need to see my mum,’ I said, gulping down deep breaths as I tried to calm myself.
Alami had always been the one who was good in a crisis. But, suddenly, it was all on me. She was gone.
My uncle drove me home, and as soon as we pulled into my street I was blinded by the blue flashing lights.
There were police officers everywhere, and Alami’s house had been cordoned off with tape.
Even before I went through the front door of my house I could hear my mum screaming.
‘I want to see Alami, let me see my daughter,’ she wailed, as friends and relatives held her back. The house was full of people. But no-one could give us any answers.
The next few hours were a blur. It felt like a horrible surreal nightmare. Eventually the police were able to tell us a bit more. And, what they revealed was chilling.
Alami had been viciously stabbed, while her daughters slept upstairs. And, Jamie had been arrested.
‘We can’t tell you much more yet,’ the police officer said. ‘We’re still investigating.’
However, there was one thing they were clear about. They weren’t looking for anyone else in connection with her murder. It had been Jamie.
My mum was devastated, while I couldn’t help but feel angry.
How dare he take the life of my beautiful, amazing sister? I wanted to know every single detail, to try to understand why.
Over the coming weeks, more information became clear. Jamie had been cooking dinner for Raisa when an argument started.
She’d walked away to diffuse the situation, but he’d grabbed a kitchen knife. In a frenzied rage he’d stabbed her 34 times in her head, neck, wrist and upper chest.
Jamie then left her to die alone on her sofa, while Maisie and Kayla slept upstairs.
He went to his cousin’s house where he confessed to killing Alami, before phoning his mum in tears too.
Then, he handed himself into the police. It made my blood boil that he had the nerve to cry. How dare he feel sorry for himself?
That’s why, months later, I went Edinburgh High Court with my family to see Jamie appear charged with murder.
I wanted him to see the effect he’d had on us, and above all I wanted to know why.
The court heard that Jamie told police he was worried that Alami was going to dump him, and that he was jealous of how well she still got on with Simon.
Then, when she’d criticised him for not making garlic bread to go with the dinner, he’d flipped.
I couldn’t believe that my sister had lost her life over something as ridiculous as garlic bread.
Part of me knew that Alami wouldn’t have made a big deal over it, she wouldn’t have started an argument over that.
But, I also knew that Jamie was unhinged. It didn’t really matter what he said my sister did or didn’t do. He’d killed her, and nothing could change that.
Jamie Ellis, 18, pleaded guilty to the murder, and was jailed for a minimum of 15 years.
It was no justice. He’ll be released and get to live the rest of his life, while Alami will never get to see her kids grow up.
The only thing I could do was make sure Alami would be proud of me. At times I felt like crumbling, but I picked myself up and made myself work hard through school and college.
I could always imagine her nagging at me to make sure I got a good education. Now, I’m a nursing assistant in an old people’s home, which I know she would have supported.
I’ve also got plans to travel to parts of the world that Alami never had the opportunity to see.
I still miss her every day and it breaks my heart that my nieces lost their amazing mum too. I visit them all the time, and I’m determined they’ll grow up knowing just how much she loved them.
If only Alami had never met that lowlife. I knew he wasn’t good enough for her, but I never could have predicted how things would end.
I can’t believe he took my sister’s life – all over some garlic bread.