EVERY day for the last nine months, Nicola Herschell has asked herself the same question – what drove the man she loved to attack her and threaten her child while wielding a knife?
She says: “I’ve got absolutely no idea what was going through his head. I’ve said from the start he wasn’t a bad person – he just had problems.”
But there is one thing she can be certain of, the tragic events of March 16 at her Honington home have changed her life forever.
After her soldier boyfriend Lance Corporal Leslie Metcalfe returned from a night out drinking at RAF Honington, he switched off the electricity, brandished a kitchen knife and became violent.
The fatal moment came when L/Cpl Metcalfe, 23, held the blade close to her two-year-old son Ryan’s head and told him to shut up.
She remembers: “I was petrified. I knew I had to get the knife away from my son.”
A struggle ensued and, as Miss Herschell wrestled the knife from him, he squeezed her throat with both of his hands. She then jabbed at him with the knife.
He died the following day of a stab wound to the heart.
“It just happened. I bit him, scratched him and did anything I could to get him off me but he was a strong bloke and he wasn’t moving. It was on basic instinct.
“It wasn’t supposed to escalate that far.”
She was arrested and bailed but wasn’t allowed to spend unsupervised time with her son for more than four months.
She was also unable to return to her job as a shop assistant at RAF Honington until the Crown Prosecution Service ruled that no charges would be brought against her.
“The hard thing was not being able to grieve for him.
“When no action was taken it was a massive relief. I was so confused with what was happening and being on bail for four and a half months. I just wanted a decision.”
Asked how she coped during those months, she says: “I don’t think I did to be honest. I blocked everything out and lived in a bubble. I saw a bereavement counsellor for a while. I just hid in myself.”
An inquest into L/Cpl Metcalfe’s death held this week recorded a narrative verdict and ruled that he died from stab wounds inflicted in self-defence in a struggle in which the other person feared for her life.
How does she feel now?
“I don’t really think anything has sunk in to be honest. None of it feels real. It feels like it didn’t happen to me.”
Miss Herschell had been in a relationship with L/Cpl Metcalfe since June last year – straight after he returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
They had spoken of getting married and she still talks about him with love and affection.
“He was amazing and he thought about me a lot. There would always be a cup of tea waiting for me when I got back from work. He would attempt to cook and looked after my child a lot. Everyone loved him and he was a really popular person. He was really funny and always made people laugh.”
When asked what she plans to do now, Miss Herschell, who has moved out of the house where the incident happened, says: “I just want to be able to get on with my life and lead a half normal life. Leave me to it with my son.”