TODAY marks 18 years since Kevin Nightingale was murdered in cold blood outside of his South Shields home.
But for his widow Julie, who cradled the nightclub doorman as he died in her arms, it is a tragedy that still remains fresh in her mind as if it was yesterday.
Choking back tears as she recalled the fateful night she found the bloodied body of her beloved husband slumped on the doorstep of the home they shared with their children Kevin and Michelle, she made an emotional appeal to the public to help find his killer.
Mrs Nightingale, 49, said: “The last 18 years have been like a living nightmare. I just feel like I am stuck in a nightmare waiting to wake up. It’s been horrendous.
“I remember going downstairs and finding him on the floor.
“Michelle was running round in hysterics.
“When people turned up, I was taken indoors and I can remember thinking he was just unconscious. I never thought at 31, I would be left a widow and my children without a father.”
After the murder, Mrs Nightingale only returned to the family home once, in order to clear out possessions. To this day, she has never been able to bring herself to return to the street.
Now a grandmother-of-three, she says her children – Michelle is now aged 29 and Kevin is 33 – are coping well, even though their father’s death is something they will never get over.
Mr Nightingale was described by his brother Andrew, 68, as a “happy-go-lucky man” who was always there for his family.
He added: “No one knows why he was killed. Right now we feel like we are living in limbo.”
His sister Jen Bullock, 58, added: “When I got the phone call to say he had been shot, I just thought it was in the leg or something and they were phoning me to say to come down to the hospital.
“I remember telling my mam, and she just collapsed in my arms.”
As well as battling ill-health since Kevin’s murder, the family have also had to contend with the heartache of losing his mum Maud, knowing she will never find out who killed her son.
Mrs Nightingale, who still wears a pendant with an engraved image of her husband, said: “It has been very hard on the family. Most of us are in poor health through it.
“I am still under a psychiatrist and I take a lot of medication. It’s absolute hell.
“His mam was really ill, but she was clinging on, she was desperate to find out who killed her baby boy. She was almost 86 when she died.”
Mrs Bullock added: “One of the last things she said before she died was she needed to know who killed her baby.”
As a £5,000 Crimestoppers reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction in relation to the murder, his family visited South Shields Police Station to make an emotional appeal for people to come forward.
Mrs Nightingale said: “Please, anyone who has any information no matter how small it is or if you think it is just gossip – please tell the police or phone Crimestoppers.
“We still live in hope whoever killed Kevin will be caught. This has been going on now for 18 years.
“Someone, somewhere knows something.”