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'John's killer was not a monster - he was a coward'

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A hearse carrying the remains of John Pender leaves Killiney Castle Hotel

A hearse carrying the remains of John Pender leaves Killiney Castle Hotel

A hearse carrying the remains of John Pender leaves Killiney Castle Hotel

The widow of murder victim John Pender told people attending a service in his honour that his killer was not a "monster" but he was "a coward".

Caroline McGuigan, who is chief executive of the charity S.O.S. - Suicide or Survive, spoke movingly of her husband as she addressed a crowded hotel ballroom in Dublin yesterday.

Mr Pender (53), described as a gentle giant, died of stab wounds on June 21 after he was attacked in the toilets of a pub while on a family holiday in Spain.

Mr Pender, an acupuncturist originally from Deansgrange in Dublin, lived in Shankill, Co Dublin, with his wife, son Conor (21) and daughter Amy (18).

He was in an Irish pub in Fuengirola when he was attacked shortly after he had politely asked a man to stop bothering his wife and his friend's partner.

Yesterday, his coffin was carried shoulder-high into the packed ballroom of Fitzpatrick's Castle Hotel in Killiney for a ceremony that paid tribute to him as a man of kindness, gentleness and spirituality.

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John Pender

John Pender

John Pender

A second large function room was also crowded with people watching the ceremony by video-link.

There were posters of John on display stating : 'A legacy of love, laughter and hope'.

Caroline McGuigan said she and Conor and Amy would honour his memory and his wisdom by living fully, without fear.

"John never ever feared death... He always said life is for living," she said.

"He made a decision years ago. He chose to live his life completely and utterly free from fear.

"I said to Conor and Amy that we are going to do that too. I say to everyone here today, life is very, very short. And I have just learned that.

"One day is going to be everyone's last day. So live your life completely and utterly free from fear.

"John was murdered. And he was murdered by a man called Leigh. And that man was like everyone else, and he had children and he had a wife. And he is not going to be made out to be a monster...

"He made a choice and he took John's life. And the only thing I would say about that man is that he was a coward... because you don't attack someone from behind."

Reflecting on her life with John, she said: "We had an absolute ball."

In the event booklet, she stated her husband had an "unexplainable capacity to love and serve" which was "a joy to watch and a privilege to experience. His hugs were legendary, they were comforting, assuring, even - dare I say - healing.

"Over the past days, John's investment of love has been rewarded by the greatest outpouring of love and support for our family," she said.

"The world was shattered by John's passing and what has kept us moving has been the overwhelming love and unselfish support and the comforting words that have been sent our way. It lifts our hearts and shines a light into the darkness and reminds us of something that our family has always known. Love never fails," she said.

The service was conducted by Rob Carley, who said he loved John as a friend and that he was "a man with an open mind and a compassionate heart" who had wisdom and a deep spirituality.

Mr Pender's children were also among those to speak.

John Pender's brother Stephen told stories of their shared childhood which filled the ballroom with laughter.

The event was followed by cremation at Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.

Last week, English chef Leigh Anthony Gardiner (49) was remanded in custody when he appeared in court in Spain at a hearing in connection with the fatal attack.

Sunday Independent