Saturday 17 March 2018

Partner in despair as gun victim laid to rest

Michael McHale

THE partner of a father of two who was brutally gunned down during a family holiday yesterday told of how she has lost her "very best friend".

Speaking at the funeral mass of John 'Jock' O'Neill, killed in a bar in Spain, Maxine Sutcliffe described her despair at losing the love of her life and the father of son Jake (3) and nine-month-old daughter Jasmine.

"Truly, madly, deeply, that's how I felt for you," she said about Mr O'Neill to hundreds of mourners in St Joseph's church in Bonnybrook, north Dublin, yesterday.

Desperately holding back the tears, she added: "I've lost my very best friend, my heart is broken forever, right until the end."

Mr O'Neill was in Coco's Bar in the Benalmadena resort on the Costa del Sol with his partner and friends at 3am on Wednesday, July 28 when he was fatally shot in the back.

He was on a family holiday at the time and was set to attend the wedding of one of his best friends the following weekend.

Fellow holidaymakers looked on in horror as Mr O'Neill stumbled 50 yards outside the pub before collapsing in a pool of blood. Ms Sutcliffe was treated for a panic attack, but was uninjured.

Yesterday she told the funeral congregation of how her son now asks for his father every day. "I tell him 'where do you think he's gone?'.

"'The big star,' he'll say."

Earlier, parish priest Fr Frank Duggan told mourners how Mr O'Neill was "an innocent victim of an incident in which he had no part at all".

In his homily he described the 41-year-old from Bunratty drive in Coolock, as "a big, genial, gentle giant with a great smile and a hearty laugh".

He was known to his friends as 'Jock' because of his childhood love of pigeons, on one occasion caring for a bird from Scotland "which lost its way".

"On an occasion like this, many will ask 'why?'. Why was Jock taken so tragically, so quickly?" Fr Duggan added.

During the mass some of Mr O'Neill's relatives, including his brother David and sister Sharon, offered as gifts a Dublin Gaelic football jersey and a baseball cap with the crest of his favourite soccer team, Arsenal.

Fr Duggan spoke of the plasterer's love of sport, and of being with friends. He said he was a shy man, but enjoyed meeting with others for a few drinks while playing darts, or in his local, the Sheaf O'Wheat pub in Coolock village, on a Saturday night.

He was "proud of his city, proud of his community and proud of his family".

David O'Neill led a group of relatives and friends as they carried brother John's body from the church to the song "The Voyage" by Christy Moore. He was later laid to rest in Fingal Cemetery in Balgriffin.

Meanwhile, police in Spain are continuing to search for the main suspect in the murder, Darren O'Flaherty (35). The Liverpool man is already wanted by British authorities in relation to a kidnapping and robbery in October 2006.

Irish Independent

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