'I will never forgive Keith's killers' - Heartbroken mum of innocent man shot dead
The heartbroken mum of an innocent man who was shot dead on a Coolock doorstep 10 years ago has said it seems like only yesterday that her son was suddenly taken from her.
Speaking to the Herald for the tenth anniversary of the tragedy, Esther Fitzsimons revealed that she prays for her only son's killers - but said that forgiveness would be a bridge too far.
Like innocent victims Donna Cleary and Anthony Campbell, who were brutally gunned down in the same year, Keith Fitzsimons was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but paid for it with his life.
Keith was just 23 when he was walking by a house at Millbrook Road in Coolock. He had grown up on the road and recognised an old childhood pal.
He walked up the driveway to catch up on old times and stood and chatted with a group of young men at the door.
Within two minutes, shots rang out as somebody standing on the path outside fired indiscriminately at the group. Keith was hit five times and was killed instantly. Two others were injured.
Keith wasn't to know that earlier that night, on June 2 2006, some of the people he was talking to had been involved in a row outside a local pub. The shooting was seen as a way of settling the score.
"I still remember the last time I spoke to Keith. It was only half an hour before he was killed," Esther said from her home near Clarehall.
"He was having a few drinks with his pals and I was on the phone to him. I told him to take a taxi home, but he didn't in the end."
Keith's inquest heard how he was hit five times - each of the shots capable of killing him on their own. His heart and lung were punctured by one of the bullets.
The all-woman jury at the Coroner's Court returned a verdict of unlawful killing by unknown persons. They also wished to stress for the record, that Keith was an innocent bystander.
He would have died instantaneously, Coroner Dr Farrell said.
Esther was dozing at home when her two nieces came and banged the door down.
"They told me Keith had been shot and I ran up to Beaumont. One of the two nurses said 'your son wasn't breathing when he came in but there is a great team of surgeons working on him' and I hoped that he would be saved.
"But as I walked away to go outside for air I was called back. A doctor came out and held my hand and told me Keith had died."
Because a murder investigation was launched immediately, Esther didn't get to see her son's body for more than a week.
Thinking back over a decade that has passed in the blink of an eye, Esther cried at her kitchen table as Keith's dog Brandy looked up at her from his water bowl.
The picture album her family put together, and her memories, are all she has left of Keith. Nobody was ever charged or convicted for her son's death.
"Justice was taken from me when Keith was taken from me. I pray for those that took him, and their families because if I get bitter I will get sick," Esther said.
"But I can't forgive them. Even if they don't ever appear in front of a judge in a court they will face God one day, and He will be their judge."
Esther said she has watched Keith's friends grow up and have children and move on with their lives.
"I remember Keith as being 23, but sometimes I wonder what he would be doing now if he was still with us. Would he have a family, would I be a grandmother?
"I'll never be a grandmother now because Keith was my only child," she said, dabbing her tears with a tissue.
On the Monday after Keith was killed, a letter arrived in the post for him at home, posted on the same day he was shot.
"It was an acceptance letter for a course to become a pastry chef that he had applied for. He was really hoping he would get that course. He had a bright future ahead of him and the next thing he was dead," said Esther.
Keith's niece Ava was due to be christened the day after he was killed. Ten years on, the anniversary Mass to be held this Sunday will be both a sad and a happy occasion because following it, Ava's little sister Evie will be christened.
"I don't like family occasions any more really, but I get great strength from my family and from the AdVic group that look after families of people who have died by homicide. They do great work," said Esther.
Esther's story comes as it emerged last night that over 240 murders committed by criminal gangs remain unsolved.
A report by RTE's Prime Time examined the worrying figures which haunt the families of victims of crime on a daily basis.
The figures show that in the past 10 years, there have been more than 130 gangland murders which have not been solved. Worryingly, from 1980 to the present day, the killers in 240 murders have never been caught and brought to justice.