Belfast Telegraph

I couldn’t do without you: Daughter’s last words to dad just hours before he was killed

By Deborah McAleese

A heartbroken daughter has told of her precious last moments with her father just hours before he was murdered during a struggle with a burglar in his home.

Mother-of-one Sandra Creelman clung to her husband and sobbed as she recalled her father Bertie Acheson’s last words to her on Sunday night.

“He hugged me and kissed me like he always does and he told me that he loved me and that he couldn’t do without me. My last words to him were ‘I couldn’t do without you either’. I don’t know how I am going to,” she said.

Her father and mother, Sheila, called to Sandra’s house for dinner on Sunday evening.

“We watched the Antiques Roadshow. We always played a stupid game together. We all had to guess what each item was worth. Dad always won. They left at 9.40pm,” Sandra said.

A few hours later, around 1.30am on Monday, the Achesons were disturbed by an intruder who used a brick to smash a back window of their home at Glenmore Gardens in Coleraine.

Mr Acheson, the main carer for his 70-year-old wife who has severe arthritis and is wheelchair-bound, got out of bed and confronted the intruder in the kitchen, but collapsed. A post-mortem examination revealed that he had died from a heart attack brought on by the stress.

The burglar left the 72-year-old grandfather on the ground, went into the bedroom and demanded money from Mrs Acheson.

After the intruder fled with her red purse and £375 cash she struggled to the kitchen to find her husband dead on the floor.

Sandra said: “I am not surprised at all that dad confronted the intruder. He would have done anything to protect mum.

“As soon as he heard the glass breaking there is no way that he would have stayed in bed and let whoever that was come into the bedroom to mum. They were not going to get past dad to get to mum.

“In the end they did anyway. If there is anything to be thankful for it is the fact that mum wasn’t harmed as well.

“This has been a nightmare. A total and utter living nightmare. Our lives have just been ruined. It will never be the same again. Mum will never be in her home again.

“She is terrified going back into her home. The intruder stripped my mother of everything she held dear and loved her whole life. The person that did this has destroyed everything.”

She added that although catching the intruder won’t bring him back it is “the last and only thing left that I can do for my dad”.

“My dad was a good, good man.

“Whoever did this must have family of his own. He must know or he must think about how he would feel if it was his family that this happened to. Look what you have done to us,” Sandra said.

Bertie and Sheila Acheson were married for 44 years.

“He just lived for mum,” said Sandra. “He looked after her from when she got up in the morning until she went to bed at night. He never left her side.

“How can I ever come to terms with how my father was brutally attacked and killed in his own home? How do I watch my mother’s heart breaking knowing that I can do nothing to make it stop?

“If anyone can help us find the person who did this to my dad please contact police.”

Police officers are still searching for Mrs Acheson’s purse and have asked residents to check gardens, hedges, driveways and bins.

They are also keen to speak to anyone who may have seen or heard anything in the Glenmore Gardens and Glenwood Avenue areas of Coleraine at around 1am on Monday to contact them.

An incident room has been set up and it can be contacted on 02870 280987.

Tears of heartache shed for man loved by many

The look in Sandra Creelman’s eyes could only be described as one that was full of agonising despair.

Sadness could be felt in every corner of her Coleraine home, which on Sunday was alive with laughter as she shared dinner and played family games with her father and mother.

But just hours after their evening together her beloved father Bertie Acheson was murdered when he confronted a burglar in his house, just a short distance away.

‘Dad had the biggest heart of any man I’ve ever known’

Sandra’s distressed cries could be heard in adjoining rooms of her home yesterday as she spoke about her father.

“These have been the longest and hardest days of our lives and there will be many more to come. In a few days we will suffer the pain of saying goodbye to dad when we lay him to rest, and right now it feels like that pain will never go away,” she said.

“Dad had the biggest heart of any man I have ever known ... dad spoke to everybody. He would never pass anybody without saying hello. Even to people he didn’t know. He would always say: ‘It doesn’t cost anything to be friendly’. It is just the way he was.”

Everyone who knew Bertie spoke affectionately about the retired chimney sweep.

And the steady stream of mourners who were calling to his daughter’s home yesterday all shed a tear for both him and for the heartache that his death has caused.

This was, without doubt, a man much loved and who is very much missed.

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