Prayers have been said in churches across Armagh for the bright young student left fighting for her life after a violent assault in Chicago.
Natasha McShane (23), from Silverbridge in south Armagh, was savagely beaten around the head with a baseball bat as she made her way home from a night out on Friday.
Last night her grandmother Bernadette McShane said her condition was critical but stable in the intensive care unit of Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital. Her parents Sheila and Liam, who have five children, flew out to Chicago to be with her.
“Her parents are devastated,” Mrs McShane told the Belfast Telegraph.
“They are at her bedside. She is getting first class treatment at the hospital. We are just waiting on news. We hope to get her back the way she was.”
Mrs McShane described her eldest grandchild as “a lovely, lovely person who is very intelligent and doesn’t mind a challenge”.
“We are very close,” she said. “We had been in touch on Skype since she went to Chicago. She was delighted to go.”
The attack has shocked the community where she was well-known as a “popular, bubbly person”. Mrs McShane said the family are very grateful for all the prayers, messages and well-wishers they have received.
The Queen’s University graduate had won a bursary to study urban planning and public affairs at the University of Illinois in Chicago and had just completed her Masters qualification.
Natasha and her friend Stacey Jurich (24) had been celebrating a work review and were walking home at 3.30am when the attack happened.
The assailant struck Ms Jurich on the back of the head with an aluminium baseball bat and then repeatedly struck Ms McShane until she collapsed unconscious and bleeding. The man then stole their purses and fled.