I couldn’t wait to celebrate a romantic Valentine’s with my fiance but a bike riding tragedy changed my life forever…
By Tracey Fidler, 41, from Reading
Looking at photos of my fiance on his mountain bike isn’t easy. I can’t help but retrace his steps before he set out on his favourite trail, the night before Valentine’s Day, never to return.
I replay how different things could’ve been if I’d not pushed him out the door that evening. If I’d only delayed him for five minutes then maybe he would still be here. Maybe I would now be his wife.
It was love at first sight for me and bike-mad Kris. We were just 17 when we started dating and within a few weeks we’d moved in together.
Shortly after, Kris proposed with a Loveheart sweet saying ‘Marry Me’. Of course it was a ‘yes’ but after having five children together, we never got round to tying the knot. Life had got in the way.
Finally, with the kids a bit older, it was decided we’d marry on my 40th birthday in an intimate ceremony in September 2015. We planned to fly abroad somewhere, just the two of us, and say our vows in the sun.
We were so in love that people couldn’t get over what we were like with each other 22 years into our relationship. We were so besotted that Kris once left a stag weekend early because he missed me. I can’t remember us spending one night apart.
Kris was a hopeless romantic and had made big plans for Valentine’s Day 2014. I didn’t know the details, but Kris had made it clear I was being whisked away to a posh hotel for the night. I couldn’t wait.
The night before, Kris arrived home late from work and curled up on the sofa beside me. He’d planned a bike ride with his mate, John, 30, but after a long day of meetings he didn’t feel like it and nodded off.
When John phoned him, Kris scrambled to get ready in time for his cycling partner to reach our front door. Kris was bleary-eyed but I persuaded him to get on his bike. ‘Off you go,’ I said, practically pushing him out of the house.
‘The sooner you leave, the sooner you’ll be back,’ I smiled.
I pictured champagne in flutes and room service in bed as I waited eagerly for Kris to return home. But as the minutes turned into hours, there was still no sign of him. I wasn’t overly worried, Kris could talk the hind legs off a donkey and I assumed he must have bumped into someone. It wasn’t unusual that they would return home later than planned.
But when he didn’t respond to my calls or text messages, I began to worry. I tried to dismiss my concerns and headed to bed, telling myself I’d wake up with Kris thudding on the front door. He never carried a key. ‘Because your face is the first thing I want to see when I get home,’ he would gush.
I tossed and turned until 1am when eventually there was a knock at the door. But it wasn’t what I’d been waiting for. Instead of finding Kris on the doorstep covered head-to-toe in sweat and mud, two police officers stood in my doorway with solemn faces and hats in their hands. My stomach lurched.
‘There’s been an accident,’ one started. I felt my heart pounding in my chest.
‘Can I see him?’ I whispered, thinking I’d have to make a mad dash to the hospital.
‘No,’ the officer replied. ‘He’s dead.’ John hadn’t made it either.
My world ended in that moment. Instead of spending a romantic Valentine’s Day with my one true love, I had to start it by telling our five children their daddy was dead.
Finding out how Kris and John died was devastating.
They had been cycling along the pavement on a stretch of the A329 called Purley Rise, in Purley-on-Thames, Berkshire, when they were hit from behind by a black BMW travelling at 70mph, in a 30mph area.
The driver, Alexander Walter, was two and a half times over the drink drive limit in a stolen car without a license or insurance.
All I could think about was how I had ushered a sleepy Kris out of the door. I was driven mad with guilt.
In April 2014, Walter was sentenced to 10 years and three months after admitting death by dangerous driving.
There were gasps in court when his horrendous history was read out. He’d been in court 14 times before, charged with 67 other offences including bomb hoaxes and fraud.
John’s fiancee Hayley and I were appalled. He’d be out in five years with good behaviour – just two-and-a-half years each for Kris and John. It didn’t feel like justice – and with his track record I couldn’t imagine him being released a changed man.
I’ve been left without my soul mate. Our five children, Kyle, 21, Ryan, 19, Luke, 17, Emma, 14 and Adam, 12, have been left without a dad. There’s a gaping hole in our family that will never be filled. Kris is irreplaceable.
I’m still brokenhearted but I’ve channelled my grief into campaigning for greater sentences for dangerous drivers. A breakthrough was made in December 2016 when the government put forward plans that suggest drivers who cause death by speeding, racing or using a mobile phone can face the same sentence as those convicted of manslaughter.
In September last year, on what should have been our wedding day, I had a quiet dinner with a few close friends. I couldn’t bear to do anything else. I’ll never get over my Valentine’s heartbreak but with changes to the law in the pipeline, I’m determined Kris’ death won’t be in vain.