When Rosemary Walkley, 73, waved her lively daughter, Virginia, 44 off on her flight to paradise she was sad to see her go. But she looked forward to keeping in touch and seeing her exotic photos but nothing could have prepared her for the photo that came back…
Waving her daughter Virginia Owen off on her dream holiday to the Dominican Republic, Rosemary couldn’t believe how radiant she looked. With long sweeping blonde locks and an enviable petite figure, her face lit up with her glowing smile.
It is a day that will remain etched in Rosemary’s memory for life.
In a tragic twist of fate, Virginia’s Dominican Republic dream was to become Rosemary’s nightmare when her determined daughter met Hans Michelle Maggnusson. A man alleged within the area to prey on ex-pat women for their wealth.
“Watching her board that plane I couldn’t help but remember my little girl even though she was now an adult. I saw her caked in my makeup, tottering around in my high heels, wearing the frilliest dresses.
After five years of trying for a child, Virginia’s dream of being a mother had been dashed. The strain took its toll on her marriage to Lee and eventually they drifted apart.
Virginia had decided on going to the Dominican Republic as a chance to have a break.
It was a dream come true but she she decided she was going to stay and live of the interest she earned from her £200,000 savings.
Within weeks Rosemary was told about Hans Michelle Maggnusson, when Virginia coyly confided she’d met someone. Virginia was smitten with Hans and even Rosemary’s warning about stories she’d read of men who preyed on female ex-pats abroad, fell on deaf ears.
In April, 2008 Rosemary and her husband John had saved up enough money to visit Virginia.
“When we landed in Puerto Plata airport I immediately felt a wave of sticky hot air. Then I saw my little girl’s big smile across the crowd of passengers. “Virginia!” I shouted, grabbing her into my arms. It’s fantastic to see you,” I gushed, tears of happiness in my eyes.”
“But Virginia didn’t seem herself; she looked withdrawn and spoke quietly. ’This is Hans,’ she said, as she dreamily looked up at the 6ft man.
When he shook my hand, I felt like cold water had been poured down my back.
My stomach churned as I froze on the spot. I whispered immediately to my husband that something didn’t feel right about this man.
Virginia was like a puppy around him, obligingly running after his needs. It wasn’t the Virginia we’d known, she’d always been fiercely independent.” she stresses.
After their fortnight holiday Rosemary knew she’d have to talk to Virginia about Hans and when Virginia asked her outright what she thought of him Rosemary couldn’t keep quiet.
“He’s a gigolo; he’s after your money. Please can you consider coming home while there’s something of you to take home?”
“Virginia erupted; she’d always been so mild in nature. Apologise to Hans,” she spat. “Otherwise I am not going to talk to you ever again. Her words floored me, but Virginia was a grown woman and could make her own decisions.” says Rosemary.
In October, 2010, Virginia’s brother Daniel got a Facebook message from one of Virginia’s few friends in Sousa, Sylvia Cheal. She told Daniel that Virginia hadn’t been seen in the village for a while and gave him Hans’s mobile number.
Immediately Daniel raced over to his mother’s house and they frantically punched Hans’s telephone number in. When Hans answered Rosemary heard Virginia in the background groaning and knew that something wasn’t right.
“I heard a hollow, dead moan in the background; it sounded like Virginia was in agony.
Then the phone went dead.
Daniel immediately booked his flight to the Dominican Republic and within 24 hours he had arrived there. He told his mother that Virginia was being taken to hospital and that he needed to send her a picture of his sister.
Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw.
I heard a scream, it was my own, and then hot tears poured down my cheeks.
“Our baby girl was a bag of bones. Her cheeks were hollow and her chest bone sunken; her face was dripping onto a dirty pillow. “This can’t be our daughter,” I stuttered. It was like a scene in a horror film, she was completely emaciated,” she cries.
Calling Daniel, Rosemary heard the full story from him and collapsed into her husband John as the severity of the situation hit her.
“Daniel told me that Virginia had no blood in her body. She was found on a camp bed with a dirty towel and no water. She was covered in bed sores and there fluid was leaking out of them onto the towel. He said the stench was unbelievable.”
“Daniel asked how Hans could have let her get like this and he just turned away. He didn’t even come in the ambulance. When he left the room he knew he had to take the picture, otherwise, no one would believe him,” says Rosemary.
Hours later Virginia was dead, the cause recorded as liver cancer.
When Rosemary picked up the phone to Daniel she knew it wasn’t good news. Daniel numbly told her that Virginia was dead.
Within hours of Virginia’s death Hans was trying to get money out of her account. He even told us that Virginia had changed her will just shortly before her death in his favour. Surely, Virginia wouldn’t have been able to even lift a finger let alone make a decision like this?” stresses Rosemary.
Daniel took home his sister’s ashes which are now resting in Virginia’s childhood bedroom. They still have many unanswered questions but mainly what keeps Rosemary awake at night is how a man could go out night after night and see Virginia lying like that, decaying.
“Hans claims he didn’t have any money to take Virginia to the hospital but we found out that there was a free hospital right next to the airport. We can only speculate what happened to our beautiful, lively daughter in those months before her death.
Rosemary is wracked with guilt over her premonition. She thinks her daughter was a victim of love and was foolish for falling for Hans.
“Virginia will always be with us. I wish I had been more forceful with my premonition I had all those years ago, but Virginia was so strong willed and was an adult. Now we have to keep fighting till we know the truth.”