Belfast Telegraph

So brave and dignified, but why did Shannon have to grow up so soon?

By Gail Walker

Who hasn’t been touched by the plight of Shannon Graham, the Newry teenager whose mother was murdered on holiday in Turkey? Or could not admire the dignity and courage the 15-year-old has shown since the atrocity?



Perhaps it was as a final tribute to her “mum and best friend” - as she described her in an interview at the weekend - that the young girl made sure she was immaculately groomed for her funeral.

She had carefully styled her long dark hair and applied a little make-up, just the way her mum might have shown her in those everyday moments mums and daughters share as childhood gives way to teenage years.

If the media expected grief-stricken scenes, they were disappointed. Under the scrutiny of the cameras, she held her composure in images all the more poignant for that.

And while the first impression — the way she leant on older relatives, perhaps, their protectiveness towards her — was of a girl of very tender years summoning up all her resources, every now and then there were flashes of a young adult aware of herself and her key role in the unfolding tragedy.

What Shannon has been through in the last 10 days is almost beyond comprehension.

One morning her life consists of long days in the Turkish sunshine, an idyllic backdrop for the 18-month long romance with a local man, Recep Cetin, or Alex as Shannon called him.

By nightfall? The bodies of her mother Marian and close friend Cathy Dinsmore lie frenziedly slain. Within hours, when his bizarre tale of Mafia-style kidnap falls apart, her boyfriend is confessing to the stabbings.

Now back under overcast skies in Newry, with a new school term looming, Shannon’s life has changed terribly, unbelievably.

Her interview was compelling. It wasn’t just what she had to say about struggling to cope with the cataclysmic events that have engulfed her, but that she could gather her resources again after the trauma of the two funerals, to talk to a journalist at all.

Cetin has allegedly told police officers that he had killed the women because they had “killed my dreams” for failing to support his intention to marry Shannon and move to Ireland. But Shannon believes that, since her boyfriend hadn’t proposed to her, that can’t be the motive.

Why then? Why? So many unanswered questions remain about the events and motivations that led to the butchery in the woods. She, more than anyone else, needs to extract some meaning from the devastation. “What was going through his mind?” she asks.

She is fortunate to have the support of her older three sisters and brother.

Naturally, the grief-stricken son and daughters are at pains to pay tribute to their lost parent: how loving she was, the way she filled the family home with happiness. It is a vivid portrait of a warm and adored mother.

It is as if the family wanted to speak out in order to stress the fundamental goodness of Mrs Graham, lest that get lost in some of the other aspects of this painful story. The short version of many of our lives wouldn’t make for great reading, stripped bare as they are of colour, emotion, context. And certainly Mrs Graham’s seems to have been one of hope and dashed hope; a search for happiness, with mixed results; good calls and bad calls.

We have learnt that since splitting with Shannon’s father, Marion Graham had been married for a while to a Turkish waiter.

And while she at first refused to let Shannon ‘go out’ with Cetin, she had relented more than a year ago. At the time of the murders, he was sharing their apartment and the interview details a close family relationship over a period of four years. “Alex and my mummy got on great. He called her mum,” says Shannon.

As her sister Lorraine says: “She is still a child.”

Hindsight is ruthlessly cruel. If Mrs Graham made a fatal error of judgment, then no one paid a greater price for it than she and Cathy Dinsmore.

And Shannon, too.

A child who has had to grow up all too quickly.

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