Family of teen Jack Glenn found drowned in Foyle after long search hit out at removal of poignant sign
The family of a young man whose body was recovered from the Foyle after a seven-week search are furious that a sign marking the base camp of their search operation has been removed.
'Camp Jacko' and the hashtag #GetJackBack had been stencilled at the foot of a pillar at the Foyle Bridge during the long search for teenager Jack Glenn.
The pillar marked the scene of the massive effort as people came from all over Ireland to help search for Jack's body.
Derry and Strabane District Council gave the go-ahead for the sign to be covered over after being contacted by a multi-agency group set up to deal with suicide prevention in the north west.
The 18-year-old was reported missing on February 2 this year and from then until his body was finally recovered on March 26 his parents, Colin and Hester, and sister Katie spent every day at Camp Jacko.
Jack's distraught mum Hester said she was left wracked with emotion when she found out the sign had been removed.
"I have been struggling so much with the pain of losing Jack, we all have. But when I got the phone call from a man who had been with us every single day helping to look for Jack to tell me the sign had been painted over I just went to bits," she said.
"I haven't had the strength to face crossing the bridge yet since we got Jack back but Camp Jacko means so much to me.
"This was where the hundreds of people came to offer to help us look for him and it was where we formed friendships and bonds with those people - so many of them we didn't know but who will always be our friends now.
"We spent every waking minute at Camp Jacko; we ate there, we walked the river bank, we paced up and down and we even slept there, that is how significant Camp Jacko is to us."
She added: "I remember vividly the day the sign went up because it was one of the few times I found something to smile about.
"I had been out on a search and when I came back to the camp and looked up there it was, I smiled and thought to myself, 'Jack you are a wee legend'.
"The thought that someone would paint over that sign without as much as a word to any of us has left me physically shaking with anger.
"I miss Jack so, so much and we are all struggling with the pain and the last thing we needed was anyone to add to that."
It transpired during the full council meeting that the decision to remove the sign was made by the working group following guidelines from the World Health Organisation on suicide prevention. Jack's mother and father and other family members were present in the public gallery, and were offered apologies from individual councillors who were quick to distance themselves from the council's decision, describing it as inappropriate, premature and "insensitive to the grieving family".
However, one of the agencies represented on the working group defended the removal of the sign at a meeting with the Glenn family, arranged by Councillor Maurice Devenney.
An outraged Mr Devenney relayed to council that contrary to the feelings and sentiments of his fellow councillors "the PHA (Public Health Agency) think it was the right thing to do to paint over the sign".
He also pointed out that no one had contacted the PSNI so that the family were informed ahead of the sign being removed, which is the usual protocol.
No one was available for comment from the PHA when contacted.
- If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000