HEARTBROKEN Pasquale Riggi broke his silence today on the “painful” events of the past week which led to the deaths of his three children and the arrest of his estranged wife Theresa.
Eight year old twins Augustino and Gianluca, and their five-year-old sister Cecilia were found dead at a flat in Edinburgh’s Slateford Road last Wednesday, 4 August.
Speaking from a hotel in Aberdeen today, Mr Riggi said: “You are paralysed with grief – you are not sure what to do next.
“It is bad enough that you have lost three beautiful children, but certainly the tragedy around their deaths makes it much more painful.
“The difficult part, obviously, is seeing constant reminders on a daily basis in front of you – it’s playing out in the newspapers and on TV.
“It’s almost like it’s happening to someone else and you keep asking yourself, is it me, is this my family.
“And then the reality hits you that it is.”
He said he and his extended family “need to be strong” but acknowledged counselling will be necessary.
He said: “We know that once all the shock and all the initial sadness of this subsides, there will be deep pain and suffering that we will all need to seek counselling for.
“The hardest moment without a doubt was when I first found out.
“Your life is all about your children, you have plans and you have dreams for them.
“In one instant, that’s gone.”
Mr Riggi is now being comforted by his parents, sister and brother-in-law, who travelled from the US to be with him.
He has not seen his wife, who remains in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
He last saw his children on July 4 when they were treated to a day out at Aberdeen beach to celebrate US Independence Day.
He said: “It was very enjoyable, we were out all day at the beach recreation centre in Aberdeen, playing video games and at various restaurants.
Mr Riggi said he could not allow Cecilia’s birthday to pass without marking it, so he and his relatives bought a cake and watched footage of Cecilia taking part in a dance show.
He said: “Her birthday was on August 9 and she would have been six.
“That was particularly difficult so close to the tragedy obviously.”
Describing her as a “little spitfire”, he said: “She was very excited about her her birthday.
“She started handing out invitations for her party the third week of June.
“It was going to be a Disney princess-themed party.
“What we did to acknowledge that, we bought a Disney princess cake on Monday.
“We had a nice lunch and then watched some footage that I had recorded of her dancing.
“Cecilia just loved dancing, I could watch her dance all day.
“We celebrated with the cake – that was quite therapeutic but also difficult.
“There was no way we were going to allow that day to pass without remembering Cecilia in the way that we think she should be remembered.”
Mr Riggi described his daughter, whose favourite cuddly toy was Dumbo the elephant, as “very much a little girl” who loved to dress up and wear pink, but who could also be a tomboy when with her brothers.
He said: “She was so into girly things and girl power, but she was always ready to rumble with her brothers at any time.”
Cecilia loved Christmas and made the family watch a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer DVD all year through, he said, and made the family laugh by pulling her “square face”.
He said twins Austin and Luke were both very competitive but had different interests, with Luke enjoying reading and creating stories, and Austin preferring maths and science.
Both boys loved playing the Playstation, horseriding, and learning about dinosaurs.
They both wanted to be palaeontologists when they were older, according to their dad.
Mr Riggi said: “Luke was the hyperactive one, right from the beginning.
“Austin was much more laid back – he would observe and analyse what Luke was doing.
“Luke seemed to be a kind of ‘old soul’ – so many things came naturally to him.
“Austin would observe, analyse and then kind of perfect.
“That’s how they constantly helped each other to do better and better.”
He said: “We were so blessed to have three happy, healthy and bright and active children.
“The memories that we have of Austin, Luke and Cecilia will forever provide joy and comfort as we go through the weeks, months and years ahead.”
As a catholic, Mr Riggi said he was comforted by the belief his children are now in a “safe place” with God.
He said: “They are not here with us physically but they are with us spiritually, and that helps.
“I try not to think about their death and I think about what they are experiencing now.
“I think they are in a safe place.”
Emergency services had responded to a report of a suspected gas explosion on 4 August, but a scene of absolute horror awaited them.
The children’s mother, Theresa, 46, was lying outside the flat suffering from broken bones and cuts, having apparently fallen from the second floor balcony.
Inside, the three young children lay dead.
Although she has been charged with murder, Theresa Riggi is still too unwell to face court, she remains an inpatient until doctors give police the all-clear.
The couple, originally from the USA, had lived in the UK for 13 years and their children were all born on British soil.
Pasquale worked in the oil industry and the family had made their home at Skene near Aberdeen.
But their relationship had broken down and the Riggis were in the process of divorcing.