THE amateur portrait of smiling Emily Brady sits in a frame made of matchsticks.
It is a sickening reminder of Emily’s horrific death in a car crash, sent by her former boyfriend Waqas Arshad from jail.
Emily was 17 when Arshad left her to burn in his blazing car after he ploughed into a tree. Twice Arshad, then 24, was asked by firefighters if anyone else was in the vehicle. Twice he said no. Arshad was sentenced to six years for causing death by careless driving while over the alcohol limit and while uninsured.
From prison he sent two portraits of Emily to her mum Patricia, yet he refused to see her to explain what happened.
FOR Patricia, every day has been a living hell since losing her daughter.
She says: “Being told Emily had died was too much to comprehend. Emily was caring, full of life and my best friend. To lose her so violently is unimaginable. Losing a child in such an awful way changes you. I will never again be the person I was.”
Patricia’s agony has been heightened by Arshad’s seemingly callous behaviour towards her family. The hospital nurse, said: “Arshad sending the portrait was disgusting. He didn’t ask the prison authorities, who would have asked me if I wanted to receive anything.
“He passed it to a mate to deliver and took that choice away from me. Later, I heard he had applied for early release and I knew I had to ask him questions.
Tragic … Emily Brady was left for dead after the car she was travelling in crashed
“He refused to see me. But he had no qualms about sending me a portrait of my daughter framed by matchsticks after she burned to death.”
Patricia last saw college student Emily, who was studying to be an accountant, when she waved her off to her part-time job on November 1, 2008.
The mum — who lives in Dunstable, Beds, with lorry driver husband Tom, 49, and student son Jordan, 19 — says: “Emily had a supermarket job to help fund her studies. She headed out after work with friends. Near her curfew she sent a text to her brother Jordan, then 16, telling him she would be home soon.
“Although we were a close family we hadn’t talked much about Arshad, her boyfriend of six months. I saw his car when he dropped her off but that was it. Every time I brought him up Emily would get embarrassed.”
Confident her daughter was on her way home that terrible night, Patricia went to bed. She says: “At 5am the phone rang. Seeing my daughter’s bedroom was empty I started to panic. When Emily’s name came up on the phone screen I relaxed but it wasn’t her voice.
Despicable … haunting portrait of Emily Brady sent to her family by Arshad
“A man told me he was Arshad’s brother and that there had been an accident and Emily was missing. He asked if she was with me. A police officer came on the line and said he would call back when there was more news.
“I tried to comfort myself with the thought that if Emily was seriously injured, the hospital would have been in touch.
“An hour later I opened the front door to the officer and heard the words, ‘I’m sorry’. I just knew and broke down.”
The officer explained there had been a crash in the early hours. Emily had died.
Patricia would learn later that Emily’s phone had been retrieved by Arshad as he escaped from the burning wreck.
Reeling in shock, Patricia asked to see her daughter’s body. She says: “It was then they told me I couldn’t identify her body. The car had caught fire and there was none.
“Emily had never hurt anyone, why had this happened to us? She was so innocent, she didn’t deserve to die like this. Clinging to the bannister for support, I climbed upstairs to wake Jordan. The agony on his face will stay with me for ever. It was the worst moment of my life.”
The family, who are Catholics, were devastated not to be able to give Emily a traditional funeral service. Her coffin contained a body bag with just a few charred remains.
Patricia says: “After the funeral, attended by more than 1,000 of her friends, my grief worsened. Overnight I went from being a tough, working mother to lying on the sofa just about able to breathe.
“I was haunted by images of her trapped, screaming for help.”
Shortly after the funeral, Patricia was told Arshad had been arrested but she was too consumed with grief to ask why.
Weeks later she bumped into him while visiting Emily’s grave. Patricia says: “We cried together, I hugged him and he kept saying he couldn’t remember anything.”
But, in May 2009, Arshad appeared at Luton Crown Court and admitted causing death by careless driving while over the drink drive limit and causing death by driving while uninsured.
The court heard he and Emily had been for a night out. Driving her home he lost control of the car, crashed into a tree and skidded into a field where the car caught fire. Patricia says: “What came next left me and my family stunned.
“The court heard Arshad freed himself from the car but left Emily trapped inside. When witnesses called for emergency services, he didn’t even tell them she was in the car.
Devastated … Patricia Brady at her daughter’s grave
“He was asked by a paramedic and a firefighter if there was anyone in the car. To both he said no.
“Firemen later realised Emily was in the car but by then it was too late. She had been injured during the accident but that hadn’t killed her. She had burned to death.”
Arshad maintained he could not remember what happened. He was sentenced to six years and banned from driving for eight. Patricia says: “I was disgusted one human could allow that to happen to another.
“He’d had time to get Emily’s mobile phone but claimed he was in too much of a state of shock to remember she was in the car. I was left with no doubt that had he told someone she was in there, she might still be alive.
“Emily’s death was utterly degrading. The anger and grief made me have suicidal thoughts.”
Then, when Patricia thought things couldn’t get any worse, the story took another sick twist in March 2010.
Patricia says: “Jordan had answered the door and was handed a parcel from Arshad. I gasped in shock. It was a sketch and a photo of Emily decorated with a clock. Both were framed with matchsticks.
“To make frames out of matchsticks when he had let my daughter burn to death seemed hugely insensitive. I couldn’t look at them but I couldn’t just throw them in the bin because they were pictures of Emily. I had to put them in the loft. It was terrible.
“Had he not considered asking me through the proper channels if I wanted to receive his gifts?
“It may be possible that he had not connected matchsticks with leaving his girlfriend to burn to death but perhaps that is being too kind.”
Vile … photo of emily inside a matchstick frame made by Arshad
Last year Patricia was told Arshad had applied for early release. She says: “I knew that to be able to move forward I needed to see him face to face. I asked if I could visit him in jail but he refused to see me.
“He is such a coward. I hope he will change his mind before he is released, which I fear could be as early as this year. I’ve read books on grief, looking for advice, and one day I plan to write my own book to help others grieving in horrific circumstances.
“But in the meantime I hope publishing the pictures of the wreckage in which my daughter died will help save another life by stopping others from getting in a car with a drunk driver.
“Emily would have liked that.”