THE father of two young children left without a mother after she was brutally stabbed to death told today how he hoped his girls would turn out to be as “happy, enthusiastic and bright” as she was as he vowed to keep her memory alive.
Alami Gotip, 22, was murdered in May this year by her boyfriend Jamie Ellis, 18, who was yesterday sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison.
Her ex-partner, Neil Henderson, the father of Miss Gotip’s two children, Shola, four, and 18-month-old Jasmin, today spoke for the first time of his anguish that his daughters will grow up without their mother’s influence in their lives.
The children were asleep upstairs in Ms Gotip’s Livingston home when she was stabbed 38 times by Ellis following an argument about garlic bread.
Mr Henderson, 28, who now has full custody of his daughters and lives in Livingston, said his ex-partner’s death has had a profound effect on his eldest child.
He said: “It’s quite clear that Jasmin is unaffected by it, which is good, but also it’s a shame in a way because they had a close bond and she will never remember Alami.
“You can really see how much it’s affected Shola. We’ve had some difficult times with her behaviour since it happened and she still does talk about it a lot.
“Shola generally talks about things and is quite pragmatic. But she has got really angry about it and upset with me – those were really low moments, but I’m sure she is going to be OK.
“She gets more upset than angry these days, and thinks about it more.”
Mr Henderson, who works for HM Revenue and Customs in Livingston where Miss Gotip was also employed, added: “I have been pretty honest with the girls about what happened as we were advised to do that from the start.
“Shola had lots of questions.She knows what happened that night. They slept through it, thankfully. They were on their own in the house for hours until the police turned up, with no-one to look after them.”
Police were called to Miss Gotip’s house in the Dedridge area at around 10pm on May 25 after receiving a 999 call.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Ellis had been smoking cannabis and taking valium before he launched the fatal attack. The court heard he “snapped” because she had been “moaning at him” over his failure to make garlic bread for dinner.
He confessed to his mother, who raised the alarm, and he later told police: “I can’t leave her because I love her so much. It totally destroys me, thinking that she is going to be with somebody else.
“It’s not that I’m a horrible person, but s*** happens.”
Ellis is also said to have been jealous of Miss Gotip’s continued good relationship with her ex-partner.
The pair were still close friends and Mr Henderson used to collect the girls from Miss Gotip’s house every morning before work.
Mr Henderson said: “We had split up, but we were best friends and all the childcare was shared equally between us.
“He was very jealous of my relationship with Alami, though he needn’t have been.
“Alami was the most important person I have ever met. It’s been really upsetting to lose someone so important to me.
“It’s awful to think that Alami has missed out on seeing [the children] growing up and it’s awful to think that they have to put up with not having a mother for the rest of their lives.
“Although I’m confident I’m equipped to bring them up, there will be things that they miss out on because of that.
“I’m sure the girls will have plenty of questions when they are older and I will always answer them and talk to them about Alami.”
Ellis was jailed by judge Lord Glennie and told he posed a “high-risk” of re-offending and was a danger to the public. He will have to serve at least 15 years before he can apply for parole.
Following the hearing, Miss Gotip’s mother Karen McKenna, 43, hit out at the length of the sentence. She said: “I cannot believe he only got 15 years, I thought it would be life.
“I wanted him to be kept behind bars forever. For life to mean life. Our family have been through enough and now we can just try to grieve properly.”
She added: “The world has really lost a beautiful person. No sentence will ever be long enough for what he did to my daughter. He has devastated so many lives and we will never get over this.
“We miss Alami everyday, it’s a constant pain in my heart with no escape.”
Mr Henderson, who went to court to watch the sentencing, said he “holds out hope” that his time in prison will rehabilitate Ellis. He said: “It’s difficult to be satisfied with any outcome when you lose someone you love in such circumstances, but all we can do is hope that 15 years is a suitable sentence for rehabilitation so that when Jamie Ellis gets out he’s no longer as destructive and violent as he is today.
“The only thing that’s important now is that my family and I put all our efforts into ensuring the two beautiful little girls Alami has left behind are as bright, happy and enthusiastic about life as their mummy was.”