Family's baby hope after such sadness

WHEN proud father Richard Topp held his new baby daughter Vanessa in his arms today he felt a mixture of joy and sadness.His joy came from the fact that for the first time tiny Vanessa was at home with her parents after being born premature and spending her first weeks fighting for survival in an incubator at Ipswich Hospital.

WHEN proud father Richard Topp held his new baby daughter Vanessa in his arms today he felt a mixture of joy and sadness.

His joy came from the fact that for the first time tiny Vanessa was at home with her parents after being born premature and spending her first weeks fighting for survival in an incubator at Ipswich Hospital.

Yesterday, she was six weeks old and her delighted parents said she was feeding well and growing stronger everyday.

But her progress comes at a time when Mr Topp and his wife Sarah are mourning the death of Vanessa's identical twin Kyle (pronounced Kylie), who died before birth.

Their sadness over Kyle's death was further compounded by the fact that Mr Topp was still coming to terms with the deaths of two other children - his five-year-old son Anthony who died in an arson attack and his daughter Jasmine who was a victim of cot death.

But through their sadness, the Topps today spoke of their relief that Vanessa was doing well.

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Mr Topp, of Kelly Road, Ipswich, said: “I've been amazed by Vanessa. She was absolutely tiny.

“Because we'd lost Kyle and Vanessa was so small I thought we were going to lose both of them. Everyone at Ipswich Hospital has been absolutely amazing.”

And Mrs Topp, 24, said: “She was only three pounds five when she was born. She is now five pounds two ounces. She's amazed us how she's fought.”

Today, in an emotional interview with The Evening Star, 34-year-old Mr Topp spoke for the first time about his son's death in July, 1998 and his turmoil dealing with the death of three of his eight children.

He revealed how his grief had led him to self-harm and attempt suicide but today he vowed to fight on for his surviving children.

He said: “At the moment I don't know where I'm going to tell you the truth. I want to think positive but then you think about it and it gets to you. It's so hard.

“You never think it's going to happen to you, let alone three times.”

The Topps had been thrilled when doctors told them they were expecting identical twins. Mr Topp told all his friends and he hoped his life was finally turning around for the better.

But baby Kyle died at 31 weeks after Mrs Topp suffered complications in pregnancy. Vanessa was born severely premature on April 20 - she had not been due until June 17. But when she showed signs of distress doctors carried out an emergency caesarean.

While doctors fought to keep her alive, Mr and Mrs Topp, who have been married for five years, faced the agony of burying Kyle. After her birth Mrs Topp cradled Kyle's body and said farewell to her child and, as he had with Jasmine, Mr Topp carried her coffin at her funeral and laid another child to rest. They've now been left to cherish her footprints and handprints and a photo of her.

Mrs Topp said: “No one knows how she died. I couldn't face them doing an autopsy because they would send her from Ipswich to another town altogether. I just wanted to put her to rest.”

Every day since Vanessa's birth, they visited Ipswich Hospital, keeping a vigil beside her cot. But now the family have been able to return to Kelly Road and Vanessa has joined their other children, Castle Hill Primary student Richard, five, and Natasha, 15 months, at home.

Cradling his baby daughter in his arms, Mr Topp today praised the staff at Ipswich Hospital's maternity department and special care baby unit.

Mr Topp said: “In the baby care unit they've been absolutely brilliant. They let us go whatever time we want, no matter what time of night.

“I felt that when I left my daughter there she was in the best place.”

Has your family faced a similar situation? Do you have a message of support for the Topps? Call The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788 or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

RICHARD and Sarah Topp began a new life in Ipswich four years ago after leaving Clacton, where five-year-old Anthony died.

They had moved to the Essex resort from Manchester in search of answers over the arson attack which killed Anthony and his mother Jean Trigg, Mr Topp's former partner.

Essex police launched a double murder inquiry but the case was never solved and Mr Topp is to this day haunted by the question of why his son died.

Anthony was Mr Topp's first child but he had been estranged from Miss Trigg, 26, for some time.

After their relationship broke down Mr Topp, who is disabled and suffers from epilepsy, married his first wife Adele and they had a baby daughter Jasmine. But, at just eight weeks old, Jasmine died of cot death. Mr Topp was just 21.

Jasmine's death marked the beginning of a tragic period for Mr Topp. He and Adele were devastated by her death but they clung on to their marriage and had two boys together, now aged 11 and 12.

Then one day in July 1998 two policemen arrived at his doorstep in Manchester unannounced and with devastating news.

Mr Topp said: “I was still with Adele but we were splitting up at the time and one day I got a knock on the door and the police came in. When they first told me I couldn't believe it.

“They said there had been a house fire down in Clacton and my son Anthony died in it and Jean was fighting for her life.

“In the hospital Jean was well enough to talk but when they told her Anthony had died they say she just gave up.

“That absolutely destroyed me. Anthony was my first lad. I had fought in court for five years to get custody of Anthony. I fought for five years through solicitors but I had decided to give up and to this day I wish I hadn't.”

He added: “The hardest thing with Anthony is I can never rest. There's not a day that goes by that I don't wonder.

“I wonder why no one could ever tell me what happened with my son.”

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