A DEVOTED girlfriend devastated by the death of her partner who was viciously assaulted for a cigarette is rebuilding her life.
Emily Leybourne didn’t know how to go on when boyfriend Kristian Thompson died at the age of 19 .
The teenager was savagely attacked – because he didn’t have a cigarette – on a night out with friends in September 2010, which left him in a coma for five days.
Kristian underwent surgery to remove part of his skull, and the front lobe of his brain, and lived for 10 months before he died in July 2011.
Emily, who was 17 at the time, stood by her boyfriend, who she had been with for 18 months when he died, and was destroyed by his death.
“I didn’t really feel like a person,” she said. “I couldn’t concentrate on anything, I didn’t really think about anything else.
“I lost loads and loads of weight.”
Emily went through a “horrific” time, and was due to start a law degree, but never went to university.
However, she was persuaded to take up a part-time job at Kidsclubz childcare, based at Cleadon Village Primary School, in September 2011 by Kristian’s mum Maxine Thompson, 45, of Whitburn, who also works for the organisation.
“I thought Emily needed some focus,” she said. “And I could see that her gentle and understanding nature would be wonderful around the children.
“She is truly an inspiration to us all, and an extremely important part of our team, and I’m positive Kristian is looking down on her, as proud as he could be.”
Emily, 20, has been working at Kidsclubz for just over two years and completed a training programme with employment and skills provider esg.
She has now taken up the roll of early years co-ordinator, monitoring children’s development, and is undertaking a childhood studies degree at Sunderland University.
“I never thought I would work with children,” said Emily, who works with Maxine at Kidsclubz.
“But at the time I needed to do something. I think Kristian would be proud of me.”
Maxine, who never met Emily in the eight months that she was in a relationship with Kristian before he was assaulted during a night out in Consett, said they instantly “got on,” and she was keen to help Emily through the trauma.
“We were all devastated and still are, and Emily’s heart was broken,” she said. “Yet she was there for us.
“I just wanted to make things a bit better for her.
“I felt as if going back to work gave me some focus, and I thought she needed something.
“I think Kristian would be really proud of her. She’s a motivated kid.”
Emily, of Stanley, said the work has helped her cope, and she would advise anyone in a similar position to find something to focus on.
“I would say it’s best to get back into work straight away,” she said. “It’s much better to do something.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve moved on from Kristian and what happened, but this is a different part of my life.