Tuesday 12 December 2017

'Jason was always going to come back... he wanted the kids to grow up here'

Murder victim Jason Corbett
Murder victim Jason Corbett
Murder victim Jason Corbett and his first wife Mags who died from cancer.
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Homesick and struggling to recover from the death of his first wife, Jason Corbett (39) was touched by tragedy long before he was beaten to death earlier this month.

He had moved to America in 2011 with his children Jack (10) and Sarah (8) - but was intent on returning to Limerick so that both could grow up as teenagers in his home town.

However, his body was returned to Ireland on Thursday alone, while his children were locked in a custody battle in the US.

Born alongside his twin Wayne in 1976, Jason was one of eight children reared by parents John and Rita in Janesboro, Co Limerick.

After leaving school, he picked up a job in a local factory for a year before moving on to work for a packaging company where he rose through the ranks during his 20 years there.

Loyalty was his defining feature, said his friend and long-time work colleague, Morgan Fogarty.

He said that this was most evident in Jason's devotion to his children and his first wife, Mags.

The couple met in their early 20s and were complete soulmates.

"They were best friends and he said that to me many times," said Morgan.

Read more: Corbett custody decision now due next week

Mags was a huge influence on Jason. The couple settled together and were married at Spanish Point, Co Clare, in June 2003.

"That was his special place with Mags, and every time he came home, he always made sure that he went there," Morgan said.

"It was their romantic spot and he didn't care who knew about it," he added.

However, 12 weeks after the birth of their daughter, Mags suffered a fatal asthma attack at the family home in Grange near Killmallock.

At 2am on the morning of November 21, 2006, Jason called for an ambulance. Afraid that time was against him, he put Mags in his car and drove towards Limerick Regional Hospital.

He met the ambulance on the road, but his efforts proved to be in vain.

"He felt he didn't have time so he raced down the road and met them outside a local pub," said Morgan.

"Making that journey everyday afterwards was difficult for him because it reminded him of that night and it was not a memory he wanted to keep in his mind."

Read more: Jason Corbett's father-in-law also questioned in relation to his brutal death in US

Jason attempted to put a brave face on things for the sake of his children but could not hide his anguish.

"You could just see in his face that he was a damaged man. You could see the hurt in his face and could see in his eyes that it was killing him on the inside," said Morgan.

"Jason brought the two kids to the first Christmas party that we had here in the factory after Mags died and they had their photos taken with Santa," he added, before taking a breath to compose himself.

"I remember when we got them developed, I just could not look at Jason's one. His face is so bad in the photograph that I knew he would be upset if he saw it, so I never gave it to him."

With a toddler and a newborn to look after, as well as Mags' crèche and his own job, Jason took a lot upon himself.

"He was running the business at the same time as having the family, and he did well, but when you looked deep at his eyes, you could easily see that he was still broken-hearted," said Morgan.

Jason enlisted the help of a number of nannies, one of whom was Molly Martens.

"It was quite a while before he struck up something with Molly," said Morgan.

"It definitely wasn't something that happened straight away anyway."

The pair began a relationship and when a work opportunity to relocate to North Carolina popped up in 2011, Jason hesitantly decided to leave Ireland.

He married Molly three weeks later in her home town of Knoxville, Tennessee.

"Jason felt guilty about leaving Mags' grave behind, which was horrific for him to even think about," said Morgan.

"He always had a picture of Mags on his desk from their wedding day and the day he finished work here, he said he was having second thoughts about whether he should go or not," he added.

"The grandparents on both sides were going to lose a certain amount of contact with their grandkids and he promised that they would see them on a regular basis.

"He stayed loyal to that promise and went above and beyond and did more than most people would have been able to do."

The couple enjoyed living in the US with the kids. Sarah and Jack played American sports and got on well in school, while Jason and Molly would socialise with neighbours.

However, Jason was never truly settled in the US and despite frequent visits by family and trips home, it was clear that the family would eventually end up back in Limerick.

"In his first 12 months over in the US, he came back about five times. Luckily enough, there were some work requirements that meant he had to come back and have a few days here and there with personal time," said Morgan.

"He was very homesick. I often spoke to him about how he was getting on and I saw pictures on Facebook of Jack playing the baseball," he added.

"They liked America and he had lovely neighbours, but they didn't have the same culture that he was into.

"He was a massive sports fan and a huge rugby fan, especially the Lions tour matches.

"He was always going to come back. He wanted the kids to grow up as teenagers in Ireland and his aim was always to come home."

However, Jason never got the chance to see his children grow up as he would have liked.

His second wife Molly and her father have been questioned about his death as detectives in the US build a case against the person who cut Jason's life short.

To date, no arrests have been made. The events on the night of his death remain unclear but police have confirmed "he died at the hands of a person".

Police are not looking for anyone outside of the family home in relation to his killing.

In Jason's case, part of the tragedy is that he never got to bring his young family home.

Irish Independent

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