Grieving families say final farewell to murder victims
IT was the final goodbye. With her family members forming a tight circle around her, Shannon Graham gently stroked her mother's coffin, weaving her fingers around the carvings of the Virgin Mary, and said farewell.
The 15-year-old was one of hundreds of people in Co Down who paid their respects to her mother Marion Graham and Marion's friend Kathy Dinsmore yesterday, who were brutally murdered in Turkey.
The funerals were the final part of a painful journey for the families, coming little over a week after their bodies were found in woods about 100km north of the resort town of Kusadasi.
It was a double murder that caused widespread shock in the close-knit Newry area where both were from.
Turkish waiter Recep Cetin, who was the boyfriend of Shannon, is the chief suspect after he apparently became enraged that he would not be able to marry the teenager.
The two friends' funerals were held within a few hours of each other, spaced out so that people could attend both.
Shortly after 11am, a sombre line of Ms Graham's relatives walked behind her coffin to St Mary's church in Newry for the first of the two ceremonies.
Behind the coffin followed Shannon and Ms Graham's other children, Karen, Martina, Lorraine and David.
"A tragedy will always stun us because it is so unexpected," Fr John Byrne said.
"It is particularly true then for Marion's family and this community, because we are so painfully aware of the tragic circumstance of her death and indeed the death of her friend Kathy Dinsmore.
"Both families are united in their grief and it is natural that they have so many questions but so few answers."
Marion was a "a unique individual" who had influenced peoples' lives in many different ways and was well-known in the surrounding area.
"She was a loving mother and great friend. She lived her life to the full and enjoyed the company of friends and neighbours," Fr Byrne said.
"By all accounts she was a great person for walking and regularly she would be seen out walking on the Warrenpoint road stopping to talk to those whom she knew.
"Her humour and personable nature meant she had a wide circle of friends and she could chat to young and old with little difficulty.
"She is remembered too for the time she gave to childminding, helping out neighbours and friends."
He added: "Marion was still young and had much more to give in life but any plans and expectations for the future have been cruelly cut short and it will take time for her loved ones to come to terms with this life-shattering episode."
The close bonds that bound Ms Graham with her children were clear as her grandson Eamon brought a picture of her with her children to the altar along with a cosmetic gift set, a symbol of her motherhood.
Ms Graham's daughter Lorraine paid tribute to the PSNI, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the gardai and the Irish embassy in Turkey, who had helped "bring Mammy home".
At the end of the ceremony, Shannon again ran her fingers up and down her mother's coffin before it was carried to the graveyard surrounding St Mary's church for burial.
Less than two hours later and 10km south, a large number of the same mourners attended the funeral of Kathy Dinsmore in St Peter's church in Warrenpoint, amongst them Shannon and members of the Graham family.
Ms Dinsmore's brothers, John and George, led the mourners in the ceremony in the coastal town where Canon John Kearney, who knows the Dinsmore family well, described the 53-year-old woman as "gentle and kind" -- qualities that made her brutal death even more difficult to comprehend.
"Since Kathy died just over a week ago, we have been telling stories and asking questions and getting no answers," he said.
"For so many people in this church today, the death of Kathy has turned their world upside down, we are shocked as individuals and we are visibly shaken as a community when we learnt about the unexpected and tragic death of Kathy, who was born and reared here in Warrenpoint and was known by so many.
"We do not want to believe or accept that a person who was known so well and loved so much is now dead."
Some 200 people heard how Ms Dinsmore's death had caused a paralysis in the local community.
"We are suspended in disbelief. Today there is a huge emptiness in our hearts because Kathy has been taken away from us in this way.
"It is no wonder that we are devastated at this time, our grief is enormous. What are we to do, how are we to cope?" Canon Kearney said.
After the ceremony, Ms Dinsmore was brought to St Peter's cemetery and was buried beside her parents and her sister Bernadette, who had passed away as an infant.