Sunday 21 December 2014

Just like a normal teenager she raved about George Michael's music, kept her favourite teddy bear on her bed, talked of seeing the world, and was frequently five minutes late turning up for her shift at the shop

Published 11/09/1999 | 00:11

Seventeen-year-old Raonaid Murray was brutally murdered in the quiet suburb of Glenageary shortly after midnight last Saturday morning. Justine McCarthy reports on a life so full of promise and so cruelly wasted

Seventeen-year-old Raonaid Murray was brutally murdered in the quiet suburb of Glenageary shortly after midnight last Saturday morning. Justine McCarthy reports on a life so full of promise and so cruelly wasted

Saturday was pay day in Sally West, a chic-but-cheap fashion boutique in Dun Laoghaire shopping centre hung with rails of wilting summer dresses. Roanaid Murray, the newest assistant on the sales floor, had been banking on the money.

She was excited about it, planning how to spend it. Four weeks into her flexi-partime summer job, she was relishing her financial independence. But she had an extra reason for anticipating this particular pay day because Saturday was also her father's birthday. She told her workmates on Friday that she was planning to buy him something special, something significant to celebrate his promotion to school principal. She said she was proud of him. She had her eye on an expensive pen, an elegant addition to the panoply of his working life. Moreover, a symbol of the love of words he shared with his youngest child.

Raonaid had dreams. She dreamed of being a professional writer someday. On her curriculum vitae for the Sally West job, she listed reading and poetry among her hobbies. Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood was her favourite poem. She was going back to school to re-sit her Leaving Cert at the Institute of Education in Leeson Street. From there, she hoped to qualify for a place in the arts faculty at Belfield.

She had intended making the journey into the city on Friday morning to sign on for her chosen subjects at the Institute but she had slept it out at her home in Glenageary. So, instead, she rang the school at 12.45pm, during a pre-lunch lull in the shop, and explained her problem. Don't worry, she was assured, come in on Monday morning and put your name down.

Most people would have said that Raonaid Murray was born lucky. She was a New Year's day baby when she was delivered on January 1, 1982. A new year bringing a new life filled with promise. Her parents were good, decent people, both professionals. An older sister and brother gave her a degree of shelter. She had a granny and a grandad, a home in safe middle-class suburbia, and a solid, respectable education. In her job applications, one of her referees was a nun from St Josephs of Cluny in Killiney where she got seven honours in her Junior Cert, including Bs in English and Irish.

She even looked lucky. Unusually willowy for her 5'6'' height, she had the easy deportment of a fashion model, a sheaf of golden blonde kink-free hair falling dramatically below her shoulders, crowning a size eight figure.

``There was only one way to describe Raonaid angelic,`` says Linda-Ann Kelly, the manager of Sally West. ``Tall, long blonde hair, big baby blue eyes and the personality to go with it. She was so innocent. She would never do anything without asking. Even if she wanted to make a phone call, she would ask politely if she could use the phone.''

They had a laugh in the shop on Friday, in fact, over Raonaid's good manners. When her shoulder bag broke she asked one of her colleagues, Nicola Bunt, if she could ``borrow'' one of the Sally West carrier bags. Nicola told her she could but only if she promised to return it on Monday. That bag, which she kept with her until the moment of her death, is now in the care of the gardai.

But the luckiest thing about Raonaid Murray was that she was so ordinary. Just a normal teenager who raved about George Michael's music, kept her favourite teddy bear on her bed, talked of seeing the world, and was frequently five minutes late turning up for her shift at the shop. Like any teenager still developing a definitive personality, she was different things to different people. To Derek Dunphy, a contemporary at the Institute of Education, she was the ``very soft, very kind-hearted'' girl who helped him understand the charaterisation of Macbeth and The Mayor of Casterbridge.

To Colin Hill, the assistant manager of Scotts pub in Dun Laoghaire where she was last seen alive, she was ``a friendly, really good-looking girl you'd notice someone like her in a place like this''.

To her friend, Julian, a hairdresser who often trimmed her beautiful tresses, she was a soulmate who liked playing her acoustic guitar. He was teaching her a new song for her repetoire, the song was called ``Think''.

To some older people she would have looked thoroughly modern in her bell-bottoms and with the blue stud glittering in her nose. She was as fashion-conscious as anyone of her generation.

``People are saying she was a Goth but she never wore black. She always wore bright colours,'' says Pamela Kelly who was in the same class at the Institute.

To Brendan Keane, her student supervisor in Leeson Street, she was ``a very quiet, reserved sort of girl who never caused any hassle. She was soft-spoken and well-mannered. Most of her friends would have been like that too. They wouldn't have been a boisterous rough-and-tumble crowd.''

But she was no shrinking violet either. She was just a young girl busy living life. That life revolved around her family and friends: girls, boys and, sometimes, boyfriends. There were weekend nights at the ``Paparazzi'' night club after a couple of drinks in Scotts. She was persistent too. When Sally West did not respond promptly to her job application, she pestered them until they succumbed. Then she quit the job she already had behind the counter of the sweet shop in the ferry terminal building at Dun Laoghaire harbour.

On Friday, she had taken her hour-long break from work at 4.40pm, calling up to a friend's house. When she returned to Sally West, she was given a key to the shop bestowing a sense of belonging among the staff. She had even arranged to continue working there partime and during school holidays.

``We'd only just got used to saying her name properly. She told us it was the Irish for Rachel,'' remembers her boss, Linda-Ann Kelly. ``Eventhough she'd only been here four weeks she was very good. We had customers coming in saying how helpful she was.''

Friday was a hot, humid day and, by evening time, Raonaid's platform shoes were hurting her feet. By the time her mother called into the shop to try on some clothes that night, Raonaid was barefoot, easing her aching feet.

That was the last time Deirdre Murray spoke to her youngest child. In little more than 100 days, Raonaid should have been celebrating her coming of age on the dawn of the new millennium. The coincidence of the two events held a poetic symbiosis.

Just as her father's birthday falling so neatly on pay day.

She lived for 10 minutes of it.

The pen still lies in the shop window.

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