Monday 22 July 2019

Heartbreak at death of gentle John

Shankill man (53) killed in attack in Spanish bar while on family holiday

The late John Pender from Shankill
The late John Pender from Shankill

Mary Fogarty

A man has appeared in court in Spain in connection with the death of Shanganagh Cliffs man John Pender, while the community of Shankill remains in deep shock at the news of his death.

The Shankill man died in the early hours of Friday morning after being attacked in a bar in Fuengerola.

Leigh Anthony Gardiner (49) appeared in court on Saturday and was remanded in custody as the investigation continues.

Spanish police said that Mr Pender (53) had politely asked the suspect to stop bothering his wife and the partner of a friend. He was subsequently attacked and stabbed when in the toilets.

John was on holidays with his wife Caroline McGuigan, who founded the charity Suicide or Survive, as well as their children Conor (21) and Amy (18).

John was an acupuncturist and has also been on the board of Suicide or Survive and delivered wellness courses on behalf of the charity. He is remembered by his friends and neighbours as a kind, gentle and caring person.

John was a long-standing friend to St Joseph's Boys AFC in Sallynoggin. Many of his own close friends were volunteers and John himself was involved with the club directly and indirectly over the years. In a statement on Facebook, the club said that John was a 'wonderful, compassionate, empathetic man who helped so many former players and coaches and many others in the wider community, not just through his work with the charity Suicide or Survive but by being John'.

'Many of us who knew him are completely and utterly stunned by his tragic passing and our thoughts and prayers are with John's wife Caroline, children Conor & Amy and indeed all his colleagues and close friends,' the club wrote.

Cllr Denis O'Callaghan said that John was very well liked and held in high esteem in the Shankill community.

'He was very active in Suicide or Survive and the area of mental health,' said Cllr O'Callaghan. 'I am hearing that he was very well know as a humble man, who was always willing to help and advise others.'

Cllr O'Callaghan said that there has been a lot of shock in Shankill since word of the tragedy began to filter through on Friday.

'Nobody expects a family to go away on holidays only for such a terrible tragedy to befall them within 24 hours,' he said. 'It's very difficult to comprehend.

'My thoughts and sympathies are with his wife Caroline, his children and extended family,' said Cllr O'Callaghan.

Police in Spain said that they established from inquiries that the victim and attacker didn't know each other.

'According to initial inquiries, the suspect took an interest in several women inside the pub, including the partner of the victim. At one point the man who was killed spoke to the suspect. The victim was allegedly attacked by surprise in the men's toilets,' said Spanish police in a statement.

'The arrested man... tried to flee the scene afterwards but was stopped from doing so by security staff and subsequently arrested by police in the area.

'Medical responders could do nothing to save the victim, who died at the scene. The British man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.'

Suicide or Survive said in a Facebook statement: 'The Board of Suicide or Survive, its management and staff, and its close knit family of supporters deeply regret the loss of their beautiful friend and colleague, John Pender, husband of our founder and chief executive Caroline McGuigan.

'John's sudden and tragic death has shocked us all and the loss of his huge presence leaves an immense void in our lives.

'We extend our love and support to Caroline, Conor and Amy and the extended family, as they seek to come to terms with this devastating news. Ar dheis De go raibh a ainm.'

John was a native of Deansgrange in Dublin. As well as his wife and children, he is survived by his father Sean, brother Stephen, sister Christine, and all of his extended family and large circle of friends.

Bray People