Tuesday May 31 marks one year since Bethany and DJ were murdered by her ex-partner in Louth, and Bethany’s mum Caroline Vincent and grandmother Joy Smith have paid tribute to their beautiful daughter and special, cheeky grandson.
Speaking exclusively to the Louth Leader on the anniversary of their deaths, Caroline said that Bethany was always a big bookworm, and often could be found with her nose in a book when she was young.
"She wasn’t much of a girly girl, that was always her sister Chloe,” Caroline recalled, “She would wear her jeans and t-shirt and was happiest when she was reading – she loved baking as well, her favourite was lemon drizzle.”
As she grew up, Bethany loved popular TV shows Game of Thrones and Friends, and loved all things Disney.
Many of Bethany’s Friends and Disney collection is now proudly on display in Caroline’s kitchen, including a Friends’ themed Chick and Duck egg cups and a set of collectable Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs Potts and Chip figures from Disney film Beauty and the Beast.
"We were always together,” Caroline said, “She wasn’t just my daughter, she was my best friend.”
Bethany was just 16 when she gave birth to her son, named Darren Ervin Henson after his grandad Darren and his great-grandad Ervin respectively.
"I wasn’t thrilled to be a grandma at 36 to start with,” Caroline said, “She told us she was pregnant on April Fools Day and I thought she was joking!
"But we all loved him [DJ] so much.”
"We all love babies in this family though,” Joy added, “So we were thrilled when DJ (nicknamed from Darren Junior) was born, we all spoiled him rotten.”
DJ’s father Kieran Henson moved in with the family to help raise his son, and all have said he was a wonderful father.
A big football fan, DJ was a big Chelsea fan, a love he shared with his father, and his favourite player was Mason Mount.
"Bethany wasn’t interested in football so the two of them shared that, it was lovely,” Caroline said, “Chelsea were brilliant and sent us a full kit for him when he died, and we buried him wearing it.”
Even after Bethany and Kieran split up, he would have DJ on his weekends without fail, and made sure his son wanted for nothing.
DJ was diagnosed with non-verbal autism when he was two years old, and he was not expected to speak, but when he began to attend Eresby Special School, he defied all expectation and was speaking in sentences by the time he was five years old.
"He was incredibly good with dates and numbers,” Joy said, “You could tell him any date and he’d be able to tell you what day of the week that was straight away. He was brilliant at maths too, he was so clever.”
Caroline remembered how DJ would run into her kitchen every time he came to their house and would mark the date off their calendar, a tradition that Darren has since continued.
One year on from their deaths, Caroline said it still hasn’t quite sunk in what has happened and that she sometimes still expects Bethany to come walking through her front door in Chapel St Leonards.
"My whole world changed that day, and it will never be the same again – I never thought we’d get a knock on the door at 2am saying what had happened,” she said, “But it shows what a wonderful mother she was, she died protecting DJ.”
Bethany’s ex-partner was sentenced to a minimum jail term of 40 years for Bethany and DJ’s deaths, and had three separate restraining orders against him preventing him from contacting Bethany.
Now, working with charity Be Their Voice which was set up in Louth to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to help victims, Caroline is hoping to raise awareness of domestic abuse and to help people spot the signs of abuse early so they can escape.
"The message I want to get across is that if you are in a domestic abuse situation and have a restraining order, literally any contact from them is breaking the injunction,” Caroline said.
"It doesn’t have to be physical contact – a Facebook message, a text, standing outside your house – all of these are breaking the injunction and it’s so important to call the police if this happens.”
Be Their Voice (BTV) – was set up by a group of Louth people in the wake of Bethany and DJ’s deaths in order to raise awareness about domestic abuse in the Louth area and to help victims of abuse.
They have organised a gathering tonight (May 31) at Charles Street Recreation Ground in Louth where people are encouraged to gather and remember Bethany and DJ by blowing bubbles on the one-year anniversary of their deaths.
Sarah Parkin, chairman of Be Their Voice, said: "We are hoping for a good show of support from the community [at the bubble-blowing event].
"We would like to see the anniversary of Bethany and DJ’s death as a time to remember them and hold her family to us - we think it's a very important show of love.
“But we also want to show we are thinking about the victims of domestic abuse in Louth who will wake up tomorrow fearing their abusive partner.
"Whether it's an emotionally coercive relationship or a violent one, many people will wake up tomorrow living with abuse.
"The best legacy we can ever leave for Bethany and DJ is to give people the confidence to seek help. We must help domestic abuse find their voices and seek the help they need."