John Smith 1938-1994: Three children who feel the country's loss

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THE THREE sisters had looked forward to John Smith's visit to Basildon in Essex for days, writes Mary Braid.

Carla, 11, Sharleen, eight, and Micha Charles, five, and their parents Paul and Gail, had been picked by the local Labour party as a 'typical' family. Mr Smith, himself the father of three daughters, was to visit their modest, terraced home at 9am yesterday to discuss how Conservative tax increases would affect families like them.

'The girls had been so excited,' Mr Charles said last night. 'But as things turned out Sharleen and her best friend, who was to be with us, cried all day. I think this is their first experience of death.'

The girls had been kept off school for the occasion. When they were first told Mr Smith had had to cancel, the family thought he was under the weather. The girls all made him 'get well' cards. Last night, the cards lay on the sofa. Sharleen's read: 'You was (sic) coming to our house. Sorry you didn't come. Just rest and get better.'