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Children of murdered mum Jennifer Dornan bereft as community rallies to offer its support

By Rebecca Black

Published 05/08/2015

Claire Caldwell - who launched a fund for Jennifer Dornan’s children - with friends Martine Conlon, Vicky McKowen, Eleanor Mulligan and Alice Conlon
Claire Caldwell - who launched a fund for Jennifer Dornan’s children - with friends Martine Conlon, Vicky McKowen, Eleanor Mulligan and Alice Conlon
A fund for Jennifer Dornan’s children
Some of the toys and other items which have been donated to the fund
Floral tributes and forensic officers outside Jennifer Dornan's home in west Belfast yesterday
Jennifer Dornan died at the weekend
Floral tributes outside her home in west Belfast yesterday
Forensic officers outside her home in west Belfast yesterday

The three young children now without a mother, a home and all their possessions following a shocking murder have been left distraught, a source close to the family has said.

Little Martin (8), Jayden (6) and Abbie (3) are being cared for by their grandmother Theresa and aunt Claire in Ligoniel in north Belfast.

Their mother Jennifer Dornan (30) was murdered in her home at Hazel View in Lagmore, west Belfast, in the early hours of Saturday.

Her killer then set fire to the house in a bid to cover their tracks.

It was initially believed that she died in the blaze, but a source close to the police investigation said a port mortem revealed she had been stabbed five times prior to the fire.

Ms Dornan's three children lost all their possessions in the inferno. It is understood they had been staying with their grandmother that night.

A source close to the family told the Belfast Telegraph that the two boys have been worst affected. Young Martin was seen on Monday night running to the front of his home crying for his mother, while the youngest, Abbie, does not quite understand what has happened.

However, the family have been overwhelmed with the generosity of the local community following the tragedy.

They have received food and clothing vouchers from Sainsbury's in the Kennedy Centre and also help from JD Sports.

The family source said donations have been coming in from across Northern Ireland and from as far away as England for the youngsters.

"Yesterday a girl and fella spent their wages on the children, the public have been so good, never seen anything like it," they said.

"The kids will be staying with their granny, there will be a lot of help from relatives. At the minute we are getting them settled."

This is the second tragedy the family have faced. Ms Dornan's brother died suddenly in 2009.

It is believed Ms Dornan's partner, Martin Smyth, is currently in prison.

An online appeal for the children raised almost £14,000 in just 48 hours and a small mountain of children's toys have been donated.

Collections are also taking place in north Belfast where Ms Dornan's mother lives, including at Manny's chip shop on the Antrim Road, where a large jar with the young mother's picture on it has been rapidly filling up.

Claire Cardwell, a friend of Ms Dornan's, set up the online appeal for the children and said she had been staggered by how much had been donated.

Yesterday she was one of a group of friends at Christ The Redeemer church hall in Lagmore helping with the collection for the family.

"It's not like people donating £1,000, it is lots and lots of people donating the likes of £5 or £10, what they can spare," she said.

"This is three kids left without their mummy, their home and all their belongings.

"Jen had all their uniforms for them already, and wee Abbie was about to start at the nursery here in September. She was always so organised."

Ms Dornan was known as 'Auntie Jennifer' by many of her friends' kids because she looked after them so often.

Martine Conlon had known Ms Dornan since they were both 11 and said the community was absolutely shocked by her murder and the devastation was exasperating.

Ms Dornan had moved to Lagmore from Altnamona two years ago, but had stayed close to her older friends.

The group of women say any clothes or toys which are not needed by the family will be donated to another charity. They said they wanted to find a way to give them to other families who had lost their possessions in a fire.

A vigil was held for Ms Dornan outside her gutted home on Monday. Ms Dornan's father Stephen urged anyone with information about the "animal" who killed his daughter to come forward.

The PSNI remained at the house yesterday with forensic officers examining the property.

Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes said Ms Dornan may have been killed before the fire was started.

"It is certainly my belief that whoever started the fire did so in order to destroy evidence," he said.

He appealed for help from the public to catch her killer, describing how Ms Dornan had been socialising with friends at the Devenish complex on Saturday night before going to a friend's house close to her home and then leaving to walk home around 3am.

Police want to speak to anyone walking in the area between 3am and 4am, and the driver of a small silver car seen driving away from Hazel View.

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