'She loved living her life' - Parents of murder victim 'devastated' by death of 'great girl'
Man is due in court today charged in connection with stabbing of Mairead Moran (26) as she worked in shopping centre
A YOUNG shop manager died in a frenzied knife attack by a stalker, who had minutes earlier been asked to leave the shopping centre by security staff.
Mairead Moran (26) died just 20 minutes before she was scheduled to close the Holland & Barrett health food outlet in the Market Cross shopping centre in Kilkenny city.
The young woman was alone in the shop, and the savage attack with a hunting knife was over before her desperate screams brought others running to her aid.
She bravely tried to close the shop door to block entry to her attacker after realising the man intended her harm.
However, he forced his way in and stabbed her repeatedly with a long-bladed hunting knife.
He was bizarrely wearing a leather gauntlet on one hand, similar to those used by falconers. The man, who has a history of mental health problems, tricked security staff by running around to a side entrance of the shopping centre after being stopped at the main entrance.
Workers in the nearby SuperValu shop rushed to the stricken woman's assistance after hearing her cries and frantically raised the alarm.
Her attacker's movements into the shop, and then away from the scene, were caught on shocking CCTV security camera footage. He had left the shopping centre on foot, covered in spatters of the victim's blood, and hailed a taxi to the Loughboy area of Kilkenny city.
A 27-year-old man was arrested shortly after the fatal attack, which occurred at 8.30pm on Thursday night. He is being questioned in Kilkenny garda station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
The man, who is from Kilkenny, was known to the young woman ever since they were teenagers. When arrested, he was in a distraught state.
The parents of Mairead Moran have been left "devastated" by the death of their youngest daughter.
Murder victim Mairead Moran
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Peter and Margo Moran said they were still waiting for answers following the horrific killing.
"We haven't been informed as to the reason why she was attacked, but that's neither here nor there. I'm not going to expand on it," said Mr Moran.
Her mother said: "Mairead hadn't said to us she felt in danger. She was very happy in herself and wasn't worried.
"This has come as a major shock to the whole family. She was just working, doing her job. It's the last thing we expected."
Mr Moran paid tribute to his youngest daughter, saying: "She was a great girl. She has two older sisters, Colette (34) and Michelle (31).
"She didn't have any plans to travel because she was happy where she worked in Holland & Barrett."
He said Mairead had just been told she would be made manager of a new store and was due to start in July.
"Everything was great and it was her ambition to become a manager," he said.
Her mother spoke of Mairead's "great love" of nature and said she had studied complementary therapy in Waterford a few years ago.
Mairead had 'a love of nature'
"That led her to work in Holland & Barrett, where she really enjoyed what she was doing. As a child, she always had a great interest in nature and natural things.
"Mairead had recently completed special management training with Holland & Barrett for her new job. They are a good company to work for and she was very happy there.
"She just loved everything about nature and animals – that was just her way. She loved living her life. She was very happy with her job and was looking forward to building her career with the company. That's what she was focused on.
"She was extremely sociable and a gang of her friends turned up at the hospital last night. They just appeared in groups. She had a great band of friends, they loved her.
"We don't know an awful lot of what happened, but she would have been working until 9pm and it happened around half-an-hour before that. We're not sure."
Mairead adored her native Kilmaganny village and Kilkenny city, where she worked.
In the south Kilkenny village, there was a steady stream of locals calling to express their support and sympathy, both at the Moran home and at the shop that the family have run on the main street for decades.
In Kilmaganny parish church, friends and neighbours quietly lit candles.
Fr Nicholas Flavin said the community was rallying around to support the Moran family.
"It is a very difficult time for any family but particularly so because of the loss of such a loved and kind-hearted daughter and sister," he said.
In Kilkenny city, several friends stood weeping outside the shopping centre's side entrance as garda technical experts continued their painstaking work inside.
What makes the crime all the more upsetting is that many know the young man arrested by gardai.
Flowers laid at the entrance to Market Cross Shopping Centre in memory of Mairead Moran. Photo: Pat Moore.
Tributes poured in via social networking sites last night. Heartbroken friends remembered her as a "kind, forgiving, understanding, incredibly non-judgmental, loved by everyone."
"A great life was extinguished last night. Mairead was a truly amazing person who will be missed by many, many people who loved her," one friend wrote.
"It is a horrific shock and a real tragedy. She will always be remembered as the kind, caring person she was," another friend remarked.
Gardai are now investigating reports that he had been pestering Ms Moran over three weeks. But because she had been friendly with him in the past, she did not want to formally complain about his stalker-like behaviour.
She had expressed concerns to friends two weeks ago but viewed him as more of a nuisance than a danger.
Ms Moran's parents, Pete and Margo, run Moran's shop in Kilmaganny village. She has two older sisters, Colette and Michelle.
She recently attended the Comic Con exhibition in Dublin where she won the best dressed lady prize for her Poison Ivy costume.
Family friend, Councillor Matt Doran, said the entire village was in shock over the killing.
"The entire community are now doing everything they possibly can to help and support them," he said.
The shopping centre remained closed as garda technical experts conducted a detailed examination of the scene.
Gardai are now examining three scenes – the shopping centre, the taxi believed to have been used by the assailant and a property where he went after the attack. Detectives are also examining a knife with a black handle that was recovered near the shopping centre.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Kilkenny gardai on (056) 7775000.