BBC News

Grace Handling death: 'I am haunted by not being able to protect her'

By Catriona Renton
BBC Scotland

media caption'If you get a street pill you have no idea what it is'

The father of a 13-year-old girl who died after she took ecstasy has told how he is "haunted" by her loss.

Stewart Handling told BBC Scotland he feels like he failed daughter Grace, who took the Class A drug at a house in Irvine in June 2018.

Last week Callum Owens, who admitted to police he had given her the pills, was acquitted of killing the schoolgirl.

The trial heard Grace had enough of the drug in her system to be fatal not just to a child, but to an adult.

Mr Owens, 19, was accused of killing Grace by "recklessly supplying" the ecstasy but the jury found the culpable homicide charge not proven.

While the court heard he confessed to officers that he gave her ecstasy, defence lawyers argued Grace had experimented with drugs in the past and made her own decision to take them.

In his first broadcast interview, Mr Handling urged young people not to play "Russian roulette" with drugs.

He also described his pain over the circumstances which led to Grace's death.

Mr Handling told BBC Scotland: "I am haunted by not being able to protect her. That's my job.

"A dad's job is to work and provide and protect. I do feel like a failure."

The devout Christian described his daughter as a "gift from God" who was passionate about music and enjoyed "goofing around".

At the time Mr Handling said Grace was going through a difficult phase after losing two grandparents and was suffering from anxiety.

He added her decision to take ecstasy was a "lapse of judgement".

During his daughter's struggles he attempted to get a job in Shetland and then Moray in a bid to give the family a fresh start.

But on 28 June 2018 Mr Handling said his world was turned upside down when she went missing.

image copyrightStewart Handling
image captionMr Handling said his family "idolised" Grace

Mr Handling said he would like to see tougher legislation, in his daughter's name, for those who supply illegal substances to children.

And he urged everyone to consider the dangers of taking drugs.

He added: "As soon as that goes into your bloodstream it's Russian roulette time.

"There is no fixed dosage in these pills they are made by criminals who want to make money."

Paying tribute to his daughter, he said: "She was easy to love as a kid. She never caused any problems.

"She was sweet. She was a joy to be a father of. She is so deeply and sadly missed by so many people."

Mr Handling said it took 805 days for the trial to come to court and admitted the "traumatic" process left him feeling "totally helpless".

Grace's death has also had a devastating effect on her mother Lorraine, sister Danielle and brother Matthew.

Since the verdict Mr Handling has sought comfort in happier times and in his faith.

Mr Handling added: "She will never be forgotten.

"I look forward to seeing her again when my time is by in this world. We idolised her."

Related Topics

  • Largs
  • Drug use
  • Irvine

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