A family fragmented and a father fighting the trauma of the tragic death of his teenage daughter. Mohammed and Mallak Moustafa spoke with Heba Yousef before Christmas to give a glance into their grief. Only now the case is concluded can we bring you their full heartbreaking story.
The door opens and I am greeted with the warm smile of Mohammed Moustafa, 50. He welcomes us into the living room. The colours made the room feel inviting, warm.
Mariam’s siblings, Mallak, 17 and Adam, 13, peer through the door. Only Mallak joins her father to share her experience.
“Adam doesn’t like to talk about what happened to Mariam. He has very bad dreams about her,” says Mohammed.
“Sometimes he goes to sleep with his sister or with me, he gets very scared.
“He doesn’t go anywhere, he is always at home. Mallak is the same.”
Mallak added: “Just two days ago he went into my room, at like 3 o’clock in the morning.”
To which Mohammed concluded: “This trauma needs a lot of years, maybe I can’t forget this forever.”
It was evident that this family was still suffering in a way that they cannot express.
The circumstances surrounding Mariam’s death play a large role in the family’s ordeal.
In March 2018 Mariam died following a stroke – just three weeks after she was attacked on a bus outside the Victoria Centre, Nottingham.
Mariam’s death ignited the city into protest which quickly spread onto social media, with the hashtag #JusticeForMariam taking over Twitter.
The absence of Mariam’s mother, Nissrin Shehata, 42, only amplifies the holes in the household.
You can feel that there’s something missing.
“My wife can’t see out of her right eye, because of the crying. She had to do surgery in Egypt,” Mohammed explains.
“My mum has a lot going on, so I basically feel alone,” Mallak says.
“Because my mum is under stress and my sisters’ not here.”
Here, Mohammed and Mallak express their grief (see video)
With his wife’s current medical condition, the loss of his eldest daughter and the responsibility of his other two children, the stress is taking a toll on Mohammed’s mental health.
“I am already under trauma, stress and bereavement.
“Once, I went to a bank machine and I put my card in, requested money. I took the card out and left the money there.
“When I went to the bank to they asked me why this happened, I said it’s because I’m stressed, I’m not normal.
“Sometimes I’m cooking something, and I forget and almost cause a fire.”
He says that he feels as though he has been left in the middle of the ocean and abandoned since the loss of his eldest child.
Mariam was born with a heart condition which meant that she had to take medication every day to survive.
“I lived my entire life for Mariam in particular, because Mallak and Adam are healthy and had no health problems, so my whole life I wanted to protect Mariam.
“I wonder if Mariam knew she was going to have a short life.
“She used to say that she learns from me – but I learned from her. She helped me understand,” Mohammed says before excusing himself from the room.
He returns with a tray of drinks and places it delicately in the middle of the coffee table.
Although the Moustafa family have Italian citizenship, they are originally from Egypt.
This meant that after Mariam’s death, they went over to Egypt for her burial, which cost Mohammed up to £11,000.
They remained there for six months due to issues with moving Mallak and Adam to a new school, as well as preparing a new home for them to live in.
Mallak suggested that her time in Egypt felt as though she was stuck.
“It was weird because I wasn’t close to my extended family that much,” Mallak says.
“I’ve never lived in Egypt really. Every time I used to travel to Egypt I usually had Mariam and we were just joking, going out.
But this time I was basically alone, my cousins were just doing their things, exams, university friends and was there just bored, alone – isolated basically,” she adds.
Since returning from Egypt, the entire family has been undergoing counselling to deal with their intense grief.
Dr Simon Cauvain, 49, is a social worker, researcher and is Head of Social Work at Nottingham Trent University.
Using his expertise he has helped countless people deal with issues surrounding separation and bereavement.
“We can’t underestimate the power of grief when a child has died”, he says.
“The inevitable stress that he is feeling is undoubtedly intense, perhaps more than he can bear.
“One of the survival techniques is the sense of responsibility they have as a parent to other siblings in that family and the mother of the child – a sense of responsibility to keep this family together, to make sure nothing terrible happens after this”, he says.
“It’s a cliché that time does tend to heal.
“It is about going through the grieving process and establishing a way to move forward, but never forgetting.”
Dr Cauvain says that Adam’s sleeping difficulties are common among children who have experienced trauma.
“Firstly, its no surprise that he is having bad dreams, he’s really psychologically affected.
“He would have looked up to his sisters, including the sister who has died, and felt a sense of security. He will no doubt feel a sense of threat.
“The nightmares are a very natural thing for someone to experience, because of the anxiety, there’s a sense of fear. The sense of fear is tangible.”
Mariah Fraser, 19, Britania Hunter, 18, and a 16-year-old who cannot be named, are due to be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court on June 13, after pleading guilty one week before their trial was due to take place on April 23.
Three other girls who were involved, two 17-year-olds and an 18-year-old, are set to be sentenced at Nottingham Youth Court.
The remaining suspects in the attack on Mariam pleaded guilty to affray last month.
But the development in the case caused Mohammed more heartache,
In a follow-up interview with CBJNews today, he added: “It is like they are laughing at the court”.
“I’m surprised that this happened, I can’t get justice for my daughter”.
Mohammed believes this was their way of getting a lighter sentence.
The CPS came to the Moustafa household yesterday to try to explain that there was nothing that could be done.
“Every time I open a door, they just say ‘this is the law’. I hate this word.
“How can I feel now? I’ve lost my daughter, we are broken as a family.”
The family send messages to their sister whom they call an “angel”.
Mallak says, “I would promise her that I’ll make her proud of me one day.”