Belfast Telegraph

Man charged after young mum fatally stabbed on Father's Day

By Claire Williamson and John Porter

A man has been charged with murder after a young mother was stabbed to death in the early hours of Father's Day.

Police launched a murder investigation after Denise Dunlop was found dead at her home in Centuripe Avenue in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

A 41-year-old man was arrested by the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch and last night charged with Ms Dunlop’s murder.

He is due to appear in Coleraine Magistrates Court today.

The 32-year-old victim had a 16-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.

The little girl was said to have been in the house during the attack before fleeing outside.

The house is located inside the town’s old St Patrick’s Barracks, which used to serve as accommodation for soldiers. The properties were given over to the Fold housing association when the Royal Irish Regiment base closed down, and civilian families moved in.

Relatives of Ms Dunlop were consoled by friends and family in a home not far from the murder scene. Neighbours stood at their picket fences to watch as two policemen maintained a cordon around the house.

One relative told the Belfast Telegraph that the news of the sudden death had totally shocked the family.

Residents in the former MoD-owned properties had only just moved into their homes within the past six months.

One woman said the mother was a great personality around the place and added: “She always spoke well and seemed to always be smiling.” Another said the news she woke up to that morning was “just shocking”.

“It's devastating for her family and her two children.

“It's terrible to think that has happened just a few doors away,” the woman said.

“Most people have only just moved in and most just keep themselves to themselves — you need time to get to know your neighbours.

“But these types of violent crimes seem to be happening more and more and it's very scary.”

Emotional messages were posted on the woman’s Facebook page, led by her brother, who said: “Love u so much sis xxxxx.”

Heartfelt tributes continued to flood in to the woman who was referred to by loved ones as ‘Neeni’.

One posted: “Going to miss the banter Neeni. Love you and going to miss you.

“Hope your enjoying yourself up there because we miss you down here.”

Others said: “I am still in shock she touched so many lives”, “RIP sweetheart. God bless your beautiful children xx.”

North Antrim Assembly member, Paul Frew, knew Ms Dunlop’s son through the local football scene.

He said: “It’s just horrendous.

“It’s a very settled community. She had a new house and was settling in with a new life — it’s unthinkable.”

He added: “My thoughts and prayers are with them especially the children.”

Sinn Fein MLA Daithi McKay said: “The event of this murder of a young woman has sent shockwaves through the town.

“This is otherwise a very quiet area of Ballymena and people’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of this young woman at this difficult time.”

Background

The homes in Centuripe Street once formed part of an Army accommodation block in Ballymena’s St Patrick’s Barracks.

The Royal Irish Regiment base was gifted from the MoD to the Stormont Executive in 2008, but wrangling over red tape meant the site was not part of Civvy Street until 2011.

The Fold Housing Association refurbished the 47 homes in streets named after battles involving old Irish brigades — Cassino Avenue, Burma Place, Centuripe Avenue, Argenta Walk and St Patrick’s Terrace. Centuripe in Sicily was spectacularly liberated in 1943 by the 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade.

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