The mother of a man who was brutally murdered nine years ago has recalled the last Christmas she spent with him and revealed she and her husband haven’t celebrated the festivities since he died.
And Helena O’ Connor from Kilmainhamwood in county Meath, has told for the first time how she went through two different types of cancer in an eight month spell in 2018.
Gavin O’Connor was beaten to death with a barrage of blows from a number of different rocks by killer Conor McClelland in a frenzied attack in Carrickmacross county Monaghan in June 2011 and now his tearful mum recollects Gavin’s last Christmas at home.
She told Meath Live, ‘Myself and my husband Gerry arrived with a big fibre optic Christmas tree and Gavin came out and carried in from the car saying, ‘Don’t worry Mam I’ll put that up’, walked in, plugged it into the socket, stuck it in the window and says ‘There you go that’s it up’.
Of course I challenged him about decorating it and, typical young fellow, he turned round and said ‘Ah now that’s your job I said I’d put it up and it’s up I’ll leave the rest to you.’
Helena recollects the Christmas period as being her son’s favourite time of year.
‘I’ll always remember him as a kid, and even when he was a bit more grown up, sitting under the tree and shaking the presents to try and guess what was inside the wrapping, it was a different lifetime.
‘People have often said to me do I hope McClelland, who is in Wheatfield prison has a horrible Christmas and being honest I don’t care, I have no feelings at all towards him, I can’t understand why I don’t hate him for what he done but I don’t I have no feelings at all about him.
‘When I was attending bereavement counselling I actually told my counsellor that and they were at a loss to understand it as well, I think they felt it would be more normal if I hated him but I don’t I have no feelings for him at all.
‘He’s due a parole hearing in the new year and if he gets out after that and I bump into him I don’t know how I’ll react, maybe I’d feel differently then, but now I have not one bit of regard for him in any shape or form.
‘If the Governor of Wheatfield rang me and told me it was my choice whether McClelland could have Christmas dinner or not I wouldn’t be able to deprive him of it, I’d tell him go ahead and feed him.
‘The sad thing is though he’ll have a better Christmas than myself and Gerry will, the way we see it is Christmas day is just another day to get through.
‘Will I buy a turkey and ham? There’s not a chance , I don’t even leave the house very much now unless I have to.
‘Look I’ll be honest only I know what it would put my family through if it happened I don’t think I’d still be here.’
Further tragedy struck the O’Connors two years later when another son Patrick died in a car accident, and just two years ago they encountered further difficulty.
Helena recalls, ‘In July 2018 I was diagnosed with lung cancer and had half a lung removed, I battled through that but a few months later I was found to have breast cancer and had a mastectomy.
‘Since Gavin died I have struggled with my faith, I was a regular mass goer, said my prayers every day, but after the second years anniversary mass for the two boys I have stopped going, I asked the priest to stop saying anniversary masses for them as I would feel obliged to go and I just don’t want to.
‘My mother had a saying that was ‘God won’t give you a cross to carry that you cannot bear, I used to believe that, now I am not so sure I do.
‘Normally over Christmas myself and Gerry would either go and visit our daughter who is married in Australia or head off to Gran Canaria for the few days but neither option is open to us this year.
‘If somebody posed the traditional, ‘What are you doing for Christmas’ question to me, the only truthful answer I could five them is ‘Getting through it, surviving it’, but as for celebrating or enjoying it, no there’s not a chance of that’.