It has been one year since Lancashire schoolboy Jai Joshi was killed in a flat fire started by his own mother.
On the week the Serious Case Review into the circumstances surrounding the four-year-old’s death is due to be published, Aasma Day talks to grieving dad Paresh Patel about life since the tragedy.
Some mornings, just as Paresh Patel is drifting between sleeping and waking, for a split second, he forgets the nightmare that has unfolded and expects his son Jai to come bursting into the bedroom.
Just over a year ago, Paresh Patel remembers feeling happy and as though his life was complete.
Paresh, 44, who runs a newsagents in Hutton, near Preston which he has re-named “Jai’s Place” where he lives, says: “When Jai was alive, I had a complete life. A wife, three children and a business.
“We were happy and our lives were complete. Now, the family life doesn’t feel complete any more as Jai is missing from it.
I still sometimes wake up and think it is all some terrible dream and that Jai hasn’t really been snatched away from me.Paresh Patel
“I still sometimes wake up and think it is all some terrible dream and that Jai hasn’t really been snatched away from me.
“But then it sinks in that it has happened and it has happened to me and to our family.
“I used to read about things happening to other people and feel sorry for them.
“Now it is happening to me and is real and I can’t wake up from this nightmare as I am living it.”
It was on May 8 2014 that Paresh Patel learnt the horrific news that his son Jai had died of smoke inhalation in a flat fire in Merseyside.
As details emerged, Paresh realised the appalling fact that Jai had died at the hands of his own mother Janma Joshi who had deliberately started the blaze with petrol killing herself and Jai in the process.
Jai had lived with his dad Paresh in Hutton and was a pupil at Howick CE Primary School.
Paresh had met Janma Joshi, 40, around five-and-a-half years earlier through an Indian dating website and they dated on and off for around a year to 18 months.
By the time Janma discovered she was pregnant with Jai, their relationship was already over, but Paresh was thrilled at the prospect of becoming a father.
Jai lived with his mother in Liverpool for the first two years of his life and Paresh saw him regularly.
Paresh, who is now married to Deviyani who he has a four-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, was given full custody of Jai when he was two after court proceedings which revealed concerns for the child’s emotional well-being and he moved in with his father in Hutton.
However, Jai still saw his mother every other weekend and as time went on, Paresh began splitting school holidays with her.
The tragic events happened after Jai went to spend the second week of last year’s Easter holidays with his mother but she failed to return him on the agreed day.
Paresh says even though he contacted police, social services and the courts repeatedly, Jai remained in his mother’s care and missed two-and-a-half weeks of school before the deliberate fire which ended his life.
Paresh says it is the manner in which Jai was taken from him that still makes it so hard to comprehend and accept.
He explains: “If Jai had died in an accident or from ill health, it would still have been devastating and hurt a great deal, but you could learn to accept it.
“But because he was murdered by his own mother despite social services knowing the history of the case, I cannot begin to understand or accept it.
“I am clear in my own mind that there is no way Jai should have been with his mother when he died. He should have been at home with me.
“Jai thought he was safe because he was with one of his parents. He trusted her just as any child should be able to trust their mum or dad.
“I think Janma killed Jai as a way of getting back at me. I feel she was trying to blame me for the things that were going wrong in her life.
“If she wanted to end her own life, that was her perogative. But to end Jai’s life as well was unforgiveable.
“She only did it to get at me. Her view was: ‘If I can’t have him, you can’t have him either.
“Jai was completely innocent and it was a total waste of a child’s life. She stole Jai’s life from him.
“Spite was the only reason she ended Jai’s life.”
Paresh confesses that he has suffered many dark days since Jai’s death and says there have been times when he has actually contemplated taking his own life.
However, he says he would never do it as he would never want to cause any pain to his son Jaiden, four and daughter Sienna.
Paresh says: “I have kept going because of my other two children.
“If they weren’t in my life, I would probably have given up.
“I work seven days a week trying to provide for my children to give them a future.
“Jai was included in that future. I have another property which I had earmarked for Jai. I thought that when he was 30, he could inherit it so he would be looked after for financially.
“Now, Jai is no longer here, but I still have the other two children to think about.
“In my darkest moments, I have thought about ending it. But I know I would not do it because of my other two children.
“If I did something to myself, I would be no better than Janma because I would be leaving my other two children.
“You never expect your child to go before you. It should be the other way round.
“It is also very difficult as my other two children keep asking about Jai and remember him and look at his photo and talk about him.
“At the moment, because they are so young, we just tell them that Jai is in heaven.
“But when they are older, we will have to explain the gruesome details to them.
“We try to keep going for the sake of the other two children and keep things as normal as possible.”
Paresh says that although he will never be able to replace Jai, his goal now is to make sure nothing like this happens to any other family.
He wants to fight to make court orders enforceable so if a parent breaks the terms of a custody arrangement, immediate action is taken.
Paresh says: “I want to achieve some sort of justice for Jai.
“I want to make sure that the facts that come out in the Serious Case Review are correct. If they are not, I will be looking at taking legal action against the agencies concerned.
“The biggest thing for me is that I feel that Jai’s death was preventable and I want changes to prevent something like this happening to another child in the future.”
l The Serious Case Review into Jai’s death is due to be published on Thursday (June 4).