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Norwich husband's heartbreak at double tragedy

PUBLISHED: 14:00 02 February 2010 | UPDATED: 07:52 02 July 2010

Peter Walsh

A Norwich man has told of his heartbreak after his wife died less than nine months after his daughter was badly burned in a fire.

The lifeless body of Jackie Skalli, 43, was found at the family home in Berner's Street, off Aylsham Road, Norwich, by husband Hakim, 55, who fought desperately to try and revive her.

A Norwich man has told of his heartbreak after his wife died less than nine months after his daughter was badly burned in a fire.

The lifeless body of Jackie Skalli, 43, was found at the family home in Berner's Street, off Aylsham Road, Norwich, by husband Hakim, 55, who fought desperately to try and revive her. Paramedics were called, but they too were unable to save the mother-of-three who died in the early hours of New Year's Day.

For Mr Skalli it is the second tragedy he has suffered in just a matter of months after his 20-year-old daughter was badly burned in a flat fire in Norwich in April.

Mr Skalli said: “I've had a really horrendous eight months. I'm an atheist now - if there was a God he couldn't do this. Why did he do this to me - to test me? I can't believe this, I really can't.”

An inquest into Mrs Skalli's death has been opened and adjourned to a date to be fixed, but for Mr Skalli the pain of losing his wife of 26 years so suddenly has been deepened by not knowing how or why she died.

He said: “We still don't know what happened. I just want to know. I don't know why she died and it's not easy - I can't sleep and am all over the place.

“I hardly move from this place. I take Scotty (his dog) for a walk up to Hellesdon and back. Living with someone all this time you don't expect them to leave you at 43.”

The couple ran Mamma Mia, an Italian restaurant in Great Yarmouth, for about six years before taking on the Medina restaurant in Norwich's Prince of Wales Road in 1999 until the business closed in 2007.

Mr Skalli said he had been to a Norwich pub on New Year's Eve discussing the possibility of the couple running it as managers.

His wife, a chef, was at home, although Mr Skalli said they kept in touch via text for most of the evening, and it was not until he arrived home that he realised something was wrong.

He said: “I opened the door and saw all the lights on. I went upstairs and she was laying on the bed. I shook her and nothing. I didn't like the look of it and my heart just hit my throat.”

He called 999 and was told to put her on the floor and try and resuscitate her, which he did until the paramedics arrived, but sadly she never regained consciousness.

Mr Skalli said: “It was the worst New Year's Eve in my life - even now I'm in denial. It's there every day - did she die of this or that? What would have happened if I stayed? She might not have died if I'd have been there.”

As well as waiting to find out what happened to his wife, Mr Skalli is also trying to support his daughter whose life was changed forever following a house fire in April.

The blaze broke out in a first floor flat in Barnes Yard in Magdalen Street at about 1.10am on Tuesday, April 14 and then spread to the flat above.

Mr Skalli's daughter, who spent more than three months in hospital, survived the blaze but the incident, and its effects, devastated the whole family, including Mrs Skalli who had been on anti-depressants since then.

Mr Skalli, who also has a 25-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter, said his wife spent three-and-a-half months by her daughter's bedside while she was in hospital.

He said: “She did everything for her. Everything that any daughter would wish for, she did it. She was a good mother, a good wife and a really good chef. You won't find many other wives or women like that. You look wherever you want but no-way could you replace anyone like Jackie.”

Mr Skalli said he wanted to thank his family, friends and colleagues for their friendship and support over the past few months, including the 60 or so people who attended a funeral service and celebration of his wife's life at St Matthew's Church on January 21.

She is buried at the Rosary Road cemetery where Mr Skalli said he too wants to be laid to rest so he can be with his wife.

He said: “I've bought my burial plot with her as I want to be buried by her.”

Would you like to pay tribute to a lost loved one? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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