Megan's family struggle on as killer spends first Christmas behind bars
The mother of 16-year-old west Belfast girl Megan McAlorum told today about life without her precious daughter - as the man who raped and murdered her spent his first Christmas behind bars.
Margaret McAlorum and her family are struggling to cope with overwhelming grief.
And yesterday, as people across Northern Ireland swapped gifts with their loved ones, the McAlorum family spent a quiet day swapping memories of the daughter and sister who loved everything about Christmas.
Margaret said: "Megan was such a caring person she would do anything for anyone and she loved this time of year.
"She was so generous and loved to give everyone presents. She even made sure that the old woman down the road got something and would always get her a tin of sweets.
"Christmas just isn't the same without her.
"She got so excited about it and to be honest, we wouldn't bother about it all anymore if it wasn't for the other children."
Her husband, Frankie, continued: "We used to cover the house in lights, but since Megan was murdered I just haven't had the heart. We put up a Christmas tree, but like Margaret said, we do it for the other kids. I have given the outdoor lights away to relatives so at least they can get the use out of them."
To mark Christmas Day - like they do on every other important family occasion - Margaret and Frankie paid a visit to the final resting place of their beloved daughter.
Margaret explained: "We like to lay some flowers on her grave, but I don't really like going there. I don't like to think of my wee Megan in the ground.
"We much rather go up to the spot where she was murdered. We feel closer to her up there for some reason."
Yesterday was the first Christmas Day that evil Thomas Purcell spent behind bars after finally admitting he had murdered Megan.
He pleaded guilty at the beginning of his trial in April and was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years. However, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he has always denied raping Megan.
Her partially clothed body was found on a desolate stretch of land on the outskirts of Lenadoon on Easter Monday in 2004. Her injuries were so severe that they were similar to what would be expected in someone who had fallen head first from a four-storey building, and dental records were used to identify her.
Margaret and Frankie will always be haunted by the violent events which led to Megan's death.
"He has never shown any remorse and he has never told us what really happened on that mountain," said Frankie.
"He took some of Megan's things and has never given them back. The police still have some of her clothes as well. They told us we couldn't have them back yet for legal reasons, but I think they might be holding onto them because they are so badly bloodstained and they are trying to protect us."
Margaret continued: "We have nothing but praise for the police officers. They had such a hard job. When I think about the policewoman who had to search Megan's room - she came downstairs crying and the officer who had to ask permission to have Megan's head removed, it breaks my heart."
It is this unbelievable compassion and consideration shown by Margaret and Frankie for the suffering of those affected by Megan's brutal murder which is truly inspirational.
Through tears, Margaret explained: "If I can help anyone else or stop anyone else going through what we have been through, I will do it. I will talk to anyone who needs help.
"It's my faith that has got me through this. I know Megan is somewhere now where she is safe and no-one can hurt her. I like to meditate and I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I can feel her hand on my shoulder. I know she is always watching over us.
"I will not be a victim and I don't think about Purcell. I keep him locked up in his prison cell out of my mind.
"You have to otherwise you would go mad. He is pure evil and if he ever gets out he will kill again, but you can't think about him all the time.
"We think about the goodness in the world and we have seen that from all the people who have helped us since Megan's murder. She touched so many people in her life and after her murder, we are grateful to everyone who has been there for us."