Grace Handling death: ‘I am haunted by not being able to protect her’

By Catriona Renton
BBC Scotland

The father of a 13-year-old girl who died after she took ecstasy has told how he is "haunted" by her loss.

Stewart Handling told BBC Scotland he feels like he failed daughter Grace, who took the Class A drug at a house party in Irvine in June 2018.

Last week Callum Owens, who admitted to police he had given her the pills, was acquitted of killing the schoolgirl.

The trial heard Grace had enough of the drug in her system to be fatal not just to a child, but to an adult.

Mr Owens, 19, was accused of killing Grace by "recklessly supplying" the ecstasy but the jury found the culpable homicide charge not proven.

While the court heard he confessed to officers that he gave her ecstasy, defence lawyers argued Grace had experimented with drugs in the past and made her own decision to take them.

In his first broadcast interview, Mr Handling urged young people not to play "Russian roulette" with drugs.

He also described his pain over the circumstances which led to Grace's death.

Mr Handling told BBC Scotland: "I am haunted by not being able to protect her. That's my job.

"A dad's job is to work and provide and protect. I do feel like a failure."

The devout Christian described his daughter as a "gift from God" who was passionate about music and enjoyed "goofing around".

At the time Mr Handling said Grace was going through a difficult phase after losing two grandparents and was suffering from anxiety.

He added her decision to take ecstasy was a "lapse of judgement".

During his daughter's struggles he attempted to get a job in Shetland and then Moray in a bid to give the family a fresh start.

But on 28 June 2018 Mr Handling said his world was turned upside down when she went missing.

Grace Handlingimage copyrightStewart Handling

Mr Handling said he would like to see tougher legislation, in his daughter's name, for those who supply illegal substances to children.

And he urged everyone to consider the dangers of taking drugs.

He added: "As soon as that goes into your bloodstream it's Russian roulette time.

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