Friday 13 December 2019

‘I sat and cried where my son died’ - David Marshall on the last time he saw his son Daniel

David Marshall on the last time he saw his son Daniel and on wanting to 'shoot' the drug pushers that supplied his habit

David Marshall. Photo: David Conachy
David Marshall. Photo: David Conachy
Jackie Rafter and her son Daniel
HEARTBROKEN: Daniel as a young boy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

It was a father-and-son pint that David Marshall will never forget. Sitting in Hogans pub with his son Daniel, the young man was full of life.

He told his father he was on his way to view an apartment which would help him to make a fresh start.

At 25, he was enthused about finally getting his life back on track after a difficult few years battling drug addiction. And he was intent on keeping the positive momentum going.

"He was full of the joys," the celebrity hairdresser told the Sunday Independent this weekend. "But he seemed in a little bit of a hurry. Like he was meeting someone.

"When he was leaving I said: 'Now Daniel, you're doing really well. Keep it together.' And he said: 'No, no, no, Dad. This is it now. I am definitely better and I'm going to stay better.'

"He walked out of Hogans and I stayed sitting on the stool," he says. "I can still see it as clear as day. I went like this [wagging his finger] through the window - 'Now you behave' - and he came back in to me and said: 'Dad, don't worry. It's going to be fine. I love you.' And off he went."

It was the last time he would see his son alive.

The next day David was on the phone outside his hairdressing business on Fade Street when he saw two gardai pull up in a patrol car. "They seemed very serious and one of them said: 'I have bad news. We'd better go inside.'

"I asked: 'Is it my son?' When they told me, I collapsed on the step and started crying. It was just unbelievable. I kept asking: 'Are you sure?' I had only seen him the evening before."

Two years on, in the week that an inquest found that Daniel died of acute heroin toxicity, David says: "There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him. In fact, there was a day I ran into him in Dunnes and every morning [since his death] I walk past Dunnes and I still go to that same spot where we were standing that day and I talk to him and I tell him I hope everything is okay and I am sure he is in a better place. I just feel closer to him there."

David explains that, as a child, Daniel "was very playful. He was gentle, very sensitive. A sweetheart. A very good-looking boy too - he was very popular with the girls."

He and his wife, former model and socialite Jackie Rafter, separated when Daniel was four, leaving David to see his children - Daniel and Kate - at the weekends.

"I think boys generally can be more sensitive. If anything the separation probably hit Daniel harder."

But it wasn't until Daniel hit his early teens that David became aware he was acting out in destructive ways.

"At about 14, Jackie brought it to my attention that he was misbehaving in school and being difficult to manage," he explains. "To only have the kids at weekends, you are just playing dad instead of knowing."

As his teenage years went on, David says, "Daniel levelled out a bit. He was going well again. He played on the winning Senior Cup rugby team."

Then one day David received a call from Jackie.

"It was out of the blue. A couple of years before he died. The problem was very serious. She had gotten him into a rehab centre down the country. It was only in the last couple of years it seemed to escalate."

David got straight on his motorbike and went to where the boy was recovering. Together, he and Jackie sat and spoke to Daniel.

"He was offered heroin along the road. I was absolutely shocked. I have no idea who gave it to him. [Jackie] was absolutely distraught. Although we didn't see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues we pretty much joined hands and tried to put him back on track.

"He was emotional and he was ashamed, if anything, that he had brought this on us. But we both assured him that we would get him sorted. We said we loved him and we were going to get on top of this."

Afterwards, Daniel arrived back in Dublin and "seemed fine". Then there were signs of relapses and attempts at rehabilitation.

He voiced his frustration that he disliked listening to others pour their heart out about their addictions, believing he wasn't the same.

"He would sit in at meetings and think: 'What am I doing here?' He would say to himself: 'I am fine I don't need this.'"

David says there were more promises - "promises that he was on the mend and getting better".

"It was heart rending," he explains. "You want to find the guys who are supplying this stuff to him and shoot them. I wanted to know where it was coming from. How the hell it started in the first place."

He recalls an occasion when Daniel sat at the kitchen table of his home in Co Kildare with six others who asked him how his drug problem had started. He told the group that he had begun abusing drugs such as cocaine at 14. He told the group where he had first accessed them.

On the day of the inquest David lashed out. "I was angry as any parent would be. I was angry with everyone. How did it get to this stage? You tend to throw stones. But you can't do that. And that's when I was ushered out. I was very emotional.

"I wish I had spent more time with him- been more involved in his upbringing."

On the day he heard the news, David went back to the place his son's body was found - in the toilets at the Fitzwilliam Hotel on St Stephen's Green.

"I went up and sat in the toilet where he was found and I sat there just crying and thinking: 'Is this where it all ended for him?' I asked myself: 'How did it get to this?'

"You never think it will happen to you. I would tell parents to keep a close eye on their kids.

"Don't be afraid to ask: 'What are you up to? Where are you going? Who were you with last night?' Keep your eye on the ball. Don't take it for granted that they are behaving," he said.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News