Published: 06:00, 18 September 2019
| Updated: 13:44, 18 September 2019
Christmas Day was the last time Steven Ford would see his twins alive. Hours later wife Samantha would drown Jake and Chloe in the bath at her Margate home. Now for the first time the grieving father speaks exclusively to Marijke Hall about his ongoing anguish at his wife's refusal to accept the blame.
A beaming smile appears on Jake Ford’s face as he tears the wrapping paper off a new toy dinosaur on Christmas Day.
His twin sister, Chloe, is asleep in a bouncer next to the tree, tired out by the festivities and the previous night of excitement.
Like any proud parent, dad Steven Ford captures the treasured moments, not knowing that just a day later his beautiful babies would be dead, taken from him at the hands of the person they trusted most - their own mother.
Cruel Samantha Ford - in what has been described as a twisted act of vengeance - drowned the 23-month-old twins in the bath at her Margate home on Boxing Day.
After dressing them and placing their bodies in their cots, she ploughed her car into the back of a lorry on the A299 Thanet Way in a failed attempt to kill herself.
Just hours later, at 8.30am on December 27, her estranged husband Steven - excited to get his children back - received a knock on his door from police officers to deliver the devastating news.
He had only allowed Ford to have the twins, despite her fragile mental state, because he believed a mother should see her children over the festive period.
But he would never see them again.
It’s been nine months since the tragedy, but he says it feels like two weeks.
“I don’t know how I live with it,” he admits.
“How I feel changes every day. Trying to come to terms with something like this - there’s not a book, there’s not any advice, there’s nothing that anyone can say or do that will make me feel any better.
“It’s me that’s got to make this right, it’s me that’s got to deal with this, and me that’s got to get through it.”
When the twins were born after four attempts at IVF, Steven and his wife were living in Qatar, where he was club captain at Doha Golf Club and managing director of an infrastructure support company.
Against Ford’s wishes, they moved back to the UK in February last year and bought a house in Charing, near Ashford.
Their marriage began to crumble as Ford became obsessed with losing her “perfect life” in Qatar, and in November she kicked her husband out, before days later demanding he returned.
After he refused, she became fixated on trying to win him back, chillingly warning him in one message: “If this continues it’s going to lead down a horrible path.”
Ford even Googled how to drown someone in the weeks before she killed the twins.
But she escaped a double murder conviction after the Crown Prosecution Service accepted her guilty pleas to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
She was jailed for 10 years, but is currently in a psychiatric hospital until she is deemed fit enough to be moved to a prison.
Steven, who is in the process of divorcing Ford after being married for 10 years, says he feels like she has got away with murder.
The 36-year-old is now preparing to push for a change in the law.
“Even when the hard facts point to premeditated murder, the laws surrounding diminished responsibility have prevented justice from being served,” he says.
“It’s too broad, it’s too vague - this needs to change.”
Steven says he still struggles to comprehend what Ford did to his children, and every day is haunted thinking about the moments before they died and what happened in the bathtub.
“I’ve known her better than anyone on this planet has ever known her, but I didn’t see this coming,” he says.
“She was a very practical mother, everything was regimented, there wasn’t much emotion - that’s what I brought.
“I didn’t really understand what narcissism was until all of this happened.”
In hearings at the Old Bailey, Ford was accused of being controlling, a narcissist and fixated on making sure Steven is now suffering.
One psychiatrist claimed she was pretending to be more mentally unwell than she was, while Judge Andrew Edis QC told her: “You knew it would devastate [your husband] and I’m sure that’s one reason why you did it.”
Steven says the tragedy has made him realise he was a victim of “emotional abuse” at the hands of Ford.
“You’d never believe that something like this would happen to you so when I started to look back on my relationship with her, I started to realise that I was actually conditioned and, I’m not embarrassed to say or ashamed, I was emotionally abused for a very long time where she became very controlling and it became the norm,” he says.
“My role was to conform to her ideals and give her the type of life that she wanted, and whatever I wanted didn’t matter, as long as she was happy.
“That wore me down, that broke me down to the point where I’d had enough. I no longer fuelled the fire, I didn’t give her what she wanted and she couldn’t cope with it, so she ended the marriage with me.
“When she ended it and threw me out, it was relief, it was almost an escape, however, it was a very difficult thing not to go back because of my children.
“The hardest part was not being able to see my kids every day.
“That ultimately led up to her killing my children and, as the judge said, there is no one else to blame for this but her, and there is no excuse for doing what she’s done, in my view murdering two innocent children to punish me.”
Following the trauma of losing Jake and Chloe, Steven kept a dignified silence, only speaking out on Twitter to pay tribute to his “beautiful babies”.
But after Ford was given what he described as a “disgusting” 10-year jail term he appealed to the Prime Minister to make sentences tougher.
A bid for a review of her sentence in the Court of Appeal was made following complaints of the “lenient” sentence, including one from Steven, but earlier this month he learned it had been turned down by the Attorney General.
He was then dealt another bitter blow when last week an inquest into his children’s deaths was delayed due to Ford’s legal team demanding further investigation into her care in the lead-up to the killings.
The representation was made in relation to claims of repeated discussions with her GP surgery and calls to other mental health services before she killed Chloe and Jake.
“What seems to be happening is that her family cannot accept what she has done and are challenging what should be a standard procedure, which could be concluded quite quickly, to basically now externalise the blame for what she’s done on another entity, which will be the mental health services,” he says.
“In my view this is completely wrong. There is no benefit in dragging this out - it doesn’t change what’s happened, it doesn’t change what she’s done and why she’s done it; again, this is nothing more than her externalising the blame and not owning up to what she’s done.”
Just weeks ago, Steven, who is currently unable to work at his interior design business in London, started the unimaginably painful task of taking apart his twin babies’ beds .
His children were, in his words, his everything.
Samantha Ford detained for 10 years
His ‘daddy’s boy’ Jake was “kind, caring and always ready for daddy cuddles” - a mini-me of himself - and Chloe, his ‘little coco pop’, who would sing to him every day, was his little genius.
He says they were everything he dreamed a son and daughter would be.
With the anniversary of their deaths approaching, he struggles with the fact their killer could be walking the streets in five years.
“Justice was not served, it is still not being served,” he said.
“I can’t believe what I’m having to go through when I’m just trying to mourn my children.
“She wants me to suffer. She has no remorse. I don’t hate her because to hate someone you have to feel something towards them in the first place and I feel nothing towards her, absolutely nothing.”
More by this authorMarijke Hall