The tsunami in South East Asia took its toll ....
The Court family had everything, it seemed. John had a good job as a surveyor, and his wife Prue was an interior designer. They had a beautiful home on the outskirts of Abergavenny, complete with double garage and conservatory. They were thinking of building a swimming pool. Their sixteen year old son Toby was bright and diligent, and had passed eleven GCSEs with flying colours. He wanted to become a doctor. Emma aged thirteen was a gifted violinist, keen on a career in music.
The Court family could afford whatever luxuries they wanted. Unfortunately that included Christmas at Koh Samui in Thailand. On the morning of Boxing Day a wall of water lifted Prue Court from her sunbed by the pool to a sudden death, smashed against the courtyard wall. John and Toby were fishing from a rowing boat off the beach: they didn't stand a chance.
Emma was the lucky one. She was bored, missing her violin lessons. She wasn't that keen on sunbathing, being very fair skinned and inclined to burn on exposure to the tropical sun. She'd pleaded a headache after breakfast and was sprawled on her bed reading a biography of Mozart when the tidal wave engulfed the ground floor of their hotel.
Their neighbours back home saw news of the tidal wave on television but didn't realise the Court family were involved. It wasn't until Prue Court's sister appeared on the news a week later that their loss became apparent.
Emma flew home on January 15th, and was met at Cardiff airport by her Auntie Vera.
Vera Cook had taken a different route through life than her sister Prudence. Vera, like her niece Emma, had had an interest in music from an early age. Vera fell head over heels in love with a lad called Lanky who played drums in a local heavy rock band. Lanky still dropped by every now and then to visit the kids, Hayley, Josh and Richie. Richie wasn't strictly Lanky's ( Vera had dallied with a guitarist from another band), but nevertheless Richie enjoyed the occasional returns of the rock hero from his travels across the United Kingdom and Europe. Lanky's perpetual sniff evidenced his ability to support a cocaine habit, but he invariably declared his inability to support his family. Vera worked nights in a local car parts factory to keep the rent paid, food on the table, and petrol in her elderly and temperamental car.
Vera enfolded her niece in a sweaty embrace. She didn't feel too great after a heavy session at the Forge the night before. Vera hadn't intended to stay quite so late, but the music had been great. Her bright, carroty hair clung to her head in damp tendrils and Emma was overwhelmed by the pungent smell of alcohol and curry.
Emma didn't usually see her aunt more than once a year, and was a little surprised by the emotional welcome.
"Hey, Ems," mumbled Vera. "Don't worry. You can come and stay with us. I'll look after you."
"Er, thanks," replied Emma. During the post-Tsunami squalor of Thailand she'd been looking forward to the comforts of her own home. Her aunt's shabby house was hardly what she'd been dreaming of during her three weeks drifting from pillar to post, clinging to the shirt-tails of civilisation in order to get home. Her thoughts had been of her pristine bedroom, her two violins, and the view across the garden from her bedroom window.
After a couple of nights hunched on Auntie Vera's sofa Emma decided it was time to make a break for home. But it was easier said than done.
"Hey, Emma," protested her aunt. "You're only thirteen. You can't possibly live in that big house all on your own and look after yourself properly. There must be a law against that sort of thing."
"No, really," protested Emma. "I'll be fine."
But it was not to be. Vera Cook was always one with a bright eye for an opportunity. The following morning Vera moved her family into her sister's home on the pretext of looking after her bereaved niece. Emma didn't get a say in the matter.
At least Emma had her own room. That was a small mercy, but her life was changed beyond recognition. There was little point in playing the violin; it was difficult to make herself heard over the dreadful, loud rap music Josh and Hayley played constantly. Their friends came over at weekends and Emma was sure she could smell marijuana from time to time. Auntie Vera was hardly ever around, and even though Richie was only five he was left to his own devices most of the time. Emma found him carving his initials into the banisters two days after the family moved in.
They were the family from hell, but one is left to question whether that is where they went in the afterlife. A week later Vera, Hayley, Josh and Richie were found dead in the kitchen by a bewildered man who had called to read the gas meter. At first he thought they'd passed out from carbon monoxide poisoning, but then he saw the bruises to the heads and faces.
Emma was never seen again. Everything in her room was left as normal, but her two violins were missing and never found.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015