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Connie Leonard funeral: Mourners told horrific death can't 'destroy the love in her heart and soul'

Fr Gallagher: Evil intent visited this peaceful community. Evil lurking in the shadow, seeking to destroy life

Family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/Press Eye Belfast 19th May 2017
Family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Family and friends carry Mrs Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
School children form a guard of honour as family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com
School children form a guard of honour as family and friends carry Connie Leonard's coffin from the family home in Brookeborough to St Mary's Church in the town for require mass. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

By Claire Williamson

Mourners at the funeral of Concepta 'Connie' Leonard, who was brutally killed by her estranged partner in a murder-suicide, have been told the horrific circumstances of her death can't "destroy the love in her heart and soul".

Connie died after a frenzied attack carried out by her ex- partner Peadar Phair - who not only killed her but also tried to murder her disabled son before taking his own life.

Conor was injured as he tried to save his mother from her 55-year-old killer.

Read more: Fermanagh murder: Connie Leonard's disabled son fought with mum's killer Peadar Phair

The 30-year-old who has Down's syndrome was hailed a hero for struggling with Phair before he was stabbed by his mother's estranged partner in the stomach.

It's understood that Phair attempted to kill himself but was still alive after Conor managed to raise the alarm - though paramedics were later unable to save the killer.

At Connie's funeral on Friday Father Brendan Gallagher described the "evil lurking in the shadow seeking to destroy life".

He also paid tribute to Conor in his homily preached at St Mary's Church in Brookeborough and said he was at the "heart of everything in her life" and "together they developed friendships and lived experiences that most of us could only dream about".

Fr Gallagher said: "These past few days have been a great challenge to the faith of this family, this community.  Because on Monday afternoon in the light of a May-day evil intent visited this peaceful community.  Evil lurking in the shadow, seeking to destroy life. 

"But in that moment of madness, Conor cared for and protected his mum.  We see him holding her hand to reassure her and we see him finding the courage and confidence to seek help.

Connie Leonard.
Connie Leonard.
Connie Leonard
Connie Leonard

"That is the reality, the horror of evil intent.  But since that time, this family, this community have stood in the light, to confront, to overcome the dark shadows that seek to destroy life."

Father Gallagher told mourners that Connie would not want people feeling any regret.

He told those gathered, "in such a horrific death which Connie experienced, the constant question is: Why? Why should such a terrible thing happen to such a beautiful person?"

He said: "Many people experience and express feelings of regret.  If only I had been there to protect.  If only I had done something differently.

"But we know that Connie would not want family or friends, thinking or feeling that way.  Because for her, she had Conor with her, and that was the most important person she wanted with her at that moment.

"The circumstances and the tragedy of Connie’s death, cannot destroy the love that was in her heart and soul.  The love that all of you, family and friends, received from her.

"And that is what we celebrate today, with open hearts, silently, with dignity and respect.  Because the emotion, the experience of love, is felt not in our heads but in our hearts."

Fr Gallagher said there was "so much to be thankful for in Connie's life" and said that now Conor is "our future and our reason to hope".

He said: "Thankfully he survived the ordeal of Monday, because he is the one who will lead us all on the journey of recovery.  His love and his affection will be a source of healing for all, he is the light that will renew the spirit of hope in our lives.

"On behalf of all of us here today and on behalf of the whole community, to all of you Connie’s family and friends, we offer our prayerful sympathy and support.  We hold you in our hearts and we keep you in our prayers."

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