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Loving family destroyed by demon drink

PUBLISHED: 18:00 02 May 2002 | UPDATED: 11:50 03 March 2010

TWO lives entwined in a tempestuous alcohol fuelled relationship have been destroyed.

Felixstowe woman Zena Burton will be sentenced later this month for strangling John Westgate with a length of television flex.

TWO lives entwined in a tempestuous alcohol fuelled relationship have been destroyed.

Felixstowe woman Zena Burton will be sentenced later this month for strangling John Westgate with a length of television flex.

Today Mr Westgate's family speak frankly to Victoria Knowles of the man they knew before his life descended into a tragic spiral of alcoholism.

WHEN Liz Westgate read the details of her ex-husband John Westgate's death she did not recognise him as the man she married at the tender age of 17 and who remained her best friend until the end.

In the sitting room of her Ipswich home Liz and her daughter Christine Westgate spoke about the husband and father they knew.

The family man who put his children first and always had a smile. Not the dark and dangerous character struggling with the demons of drink and a terrible temper that they have read about.

John Westgate's body was found in his home in Undercliff Road West, Felixstowe on September 6 last year. His partner Zena Burton has pleaded guilty to strangling him with a flex from their television set.

"I was only fifteen and a half when I met him and still at school. But it was love at first sight for me. He was working across the road and when I first saw him his face was covered in soot and all I could see were these two little eyes," laughed Liz.

"We both said that we would be together until the end, even when we had our zimmer frames – but that did not happen. I just want a chance to tell the other side and show that he was a good person who lived for his children and brought a lot of laughter in to our lives," she explained.

Liz described the moment she heard the man she had grown up with was dead.

"I had had a lot of missed calls from my daughter and then my son got hold of me and simply said, "dad is no longer". I couldn't stop shaking and when I saw my daughter's face it was indescribable. I thought they had made a mistake and for quite a while I clung on to that.

" To read some of the stuff that is written about him is like looking at another man. Yes he had a temper and he liked a drink. He had a mouth on him and there were times when we argued that I did feel a bit worried but I never once thought he would turn on me and finish me off.

"When he was with us his drink problem was under control because I did not want it around my children and he stuck by this. I think things got worse when he was with Zena because she had such a problem and he felt like it was all right for him to do the same."

It is clear that to remember him alive is easy and that to talk about him simply helps to keep him near to her for longer.

"He was my best friend, lover and husband. When I lost him I lost a big part of me. We knew each other so well and when we spoke we could almost read each other's minds.

"There is not a day goes by when I don't think about him. I miss him. He never judged me and always gave me advice," she added.

In her words there is no sign of the drunken wife beater spiralling in to a rapid descent. To her he was a husband and friend and to his children a dad to be proud of.

"I can remember he always used to take us for long walks, " said 16-year-old Christine Westgate.

"He was a good dad no matter what anyone else said – he always put us first. And he smiled a lot. He was not depressed when I saw him."

In their home in Cedarcroft Road, Ipswich, mother and daughter laughed at some of the old pictures and remember good times together.

"I used to make everyone wear paper hats on Christmas day and they always did," laughed Liz.

Mr Westgate's youngest son is mute and he forged a special bond with him to communicate Liz recalled.

" My youngest son Stuart can't speak and when he was young John used to come round and put Stuart's hands on his chin because feeling the stubble was the only way he knew it was daddy," she revealed.

Christine interrupted, eager to have her own memories heard.

"I can remember mum trying to take a picture and dad telling us to be serious but instead we just jumped on him and ended up in hysterics."

Liz and John married when she was just 17 and although not married that long they remained together for many years. They had three children, Christine, 19-year-old Michael and nine-year-old Stuart. In fact when she heard that he had been with Zena for two years it came as a shock.

"I heard they had been together for two years but we had only split up about a year ago. Although I did think he was up to something," she said, her thoughts wandered back to a time when John was still part of her life.

" He loved motorbikes and he really should have gone in to it as a career but he never did. You know it is only when someone is gone that you remember all of the good times you had together. I just do not want him to be remembered as a bad person. He was not and it makes me angry because everything has been so one sided so far. But none of us will ever know what really went on," she said, content to have spoken up for the man she said was the love of her life.


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