Dean McIlwaine and my son Alan were best mates - now they are both gone
The father of tragic Dean McIlwaine's best friend Alan Drennan, who died two years ago in Ibiza, has told how he froze in horror when he heard the news on Saturday that the popular 22-year-old's body had been found.
Alan Drennan snr revealed he had been talking to Dean on July 12 - the day before he went missing - and said he was "buzzing" as he talked excitedly about his plans to open his own barber's business.
Last week friends gathered at a memorial to his son on the shorefront at Jordanstown on the anniversary of his death. But their thoughts were with the McIlwaine family, who were at the time frantically searching for missing Dean.
It is believed Alan - who was 21 when he died - had been on Dean's mind in the days leading up to his disappearance.
Mr Drennan (57) said he received a phone call on Saturday from his son Lee (25), who had been helping search for Dean, to tell him his body had been found in Cave Hill Country Park.
Last night he fought back tears as he recalled: "I was working in the garden when Lee rang and I just froze in horror.
"It started to rain but I couldn't move, I just stayed there frozen. When it did hit me, it was terrible.
"My heart goes out to Rodney and Karen (Dean's parents). I know exactly what they are going through and it's something you wouldn't wish on anyone.
"Dean and Alan were the best of mates and he was always in our house. I was talking to Dean on the Twelfth and he was buzzing.
"He said everything was going brilliant for him and he had just moved into a new house and talked about opening his new business."
Alan described Dean as "a wee gentleman and a cracking lad".
He said: "He was always into fashion and always immaculately dressed. When I saw him that day he had brown shoes with blue suede patches on them, he was always into his gear. He was such a pleasant lad and always asked about you first.
"He was the sort of lad that if you didn't know him, within five minutes of meeting him he would have made you feel that you had known him a long time."
In an appeal for information in this newspaper last week, Dean's brother Glen said Alan's anniversary was one of a number of things that the family believed he was dealing with when he went missing.
Glen said: "Before Alan went to Ibiza he came round to our mum's house and Dean cut his hair. Alan had a wee song called Half A World Away and it came on during my wedding night, and mum said Dean came over to her and said: 'That's Alan's song'. Then another friend of his died this time last year.
"I think something may have clicked in his head that it was too much, with our granda dying, the barber shop set to open, moving into a new house and the anniversaries of his friends' deaths."
Mr Drennan and his family - wife Verona (54) and sons Lee and Karl (17) - were shattered two years ago this month when they heard that Alan had died while on holiday in Ibiza.
Alan, known as a fun-loving, kind young man, was found dead in his hotel room on the Spanish island less than 24 hours after arriving with his friends.
They alleged that he was beaten by police when arrested on arrival following an incident on the flight over.
Despite investigations by Spanish police and the PSNI, as well as two post-mortem examinations helpd in in Spain and Dublin, the exact cause of Alan's death remains unknown.
On the first anniversary of his death last July his family dedicated three benches in his memory at the shorefront in Jordanstown.
It was with heavy hearts that they gathered again last week to remember Alan while his friend Dean was missing.
Added Mr Drennan: "There were about 30 of us gathered for Alan but all we could talk about was Dean.
"It is just terrible. It has brought it all back to us, although the pain is something that never goes away. We live with it every day and our hearts go out to Dean's family.
"I called with them on Sunday and I've told them we are here for them. It is surreal, I feel so heartbroken for them."