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Families of police crash victims bury loved ones

By Victoria O’Hara and Lisa Smyth

Thousands of mourners have shared the grief of devastated families at the funerals of three police officers who died in a horror road crash.

From left: a comforting hand on the shoulder of Kenny Irvine’s widow Andrea; James Magee’s heartbroken sister Rachel and mother Freda; Kevin Gorman’s grieving mum Jackie and pregnant partner Debbie

The four policemen killed in the collision died trying to make their community a safer place, mourners at three of their funerals heard yesterday.

Their vehicle caught fire after crashing near Warrenpoint, Co Down, at the weekend.

James Magee, Kevin Gorman and Kenny Irvine were laid to rest yesterday, while their colleague Declan Greene will be buried today.

In Kilkeel, Kenny Irvine’s wife Andrea pushed her baby son Callum at the head of a crowd of mourners behind her husband’s hearse. In Dromore, the parents and sisters of James Magee were united in grief.

In Drumaness, the funeral of Kevin Gorman was told his pregnant partner Debbie had been "the love of his life".

I know it will break my heart when Shannyn grows older and asks about her daddy

By Lisa Smyth in Drumaness

Over 600 mourners, made up of friends, family and colleagues of Constable Kevin Gorman, packed into Christ the King Church outside Drumaness yesterday to pay their last respects to the 24-year-old father-of-one — who was expecting his second child with his partner, Debbie.

A police officer salutes as the funeral cortege leaves the Church of Christ the King in Drumaness

In a heartwrenching tribute, his brother Shane Gorman, described his brother as a dedicated father and irreplaceable son and brother.

He revealed that on a recent trip to watch his beloved Liverpool FC, the doting dad — known to his friends as Kingo — took a sock belonging to his four-month-old daughter, Shannyn, with him so he would be able to smell her while he was away.

He explained: “Kevin was in Liverpool for a few days with friends a couple of weeks ago. Few people know he carried Shannyn’s sock in his pocket so he would be able to smell her. Well, few people knew until he got to customs and had to empty his pocket and everyone saw it.

“He told them he hadn’t put it there, that it was someone else. That was Kevin, he was a big softie but wouldn’t admit it.”

And recalling an evening where his brother sang football songs to his baby daughter until she fell asleep, Mr Gorman continued: “I know it will break my heart when she grows older and asks about her daddy. I know we will tell her how great her dad was and how much he adored her.”

And talking about his own childhood with his brother, Mr Gorman continued: “My mum pretty much raised us by her own. We couldn’t have had a better upbringing with four parents.

“From me and Kevin, I would like to tell mum how proud we are and thank her for a wonderful job. Kevin for me, words can’t describe. He was everything to me. I never really realised how much I idolised Kevin until a few days ago.

“There were so many things I wanted to say and do. We said we would go to watch Liverpool at Anfield together. That hasn’t happened, but maybe we will someday Kevin. Until then, I know I will never have to walk on my own. You will always be there with me and I will treasure the memories that no-one can take away.

“As for people saying you are starting out a long journey on your own, I know you will be waiting for us all and more than likely, keeping the best seats in the house for us and when that time comes we can all walk together.”

The four officers who died in Sunday’s accident were, from left, James Magee, Kevin Gorman, Declan Greene and Kenny Irvine. The funerals of Constables Magee, Gorman and Irvine will take place today
The four officers who died in Sunday’s accident were, from left, James Magee,

Kevin Gorman, Declan Greene and Kenny Irvine

The moving farewell was heard by some of Northern Ireland’s highest ranking police officers, politicians and security figures.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton, Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay – who both wore black armbands — Policing Board Chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea and Ombudsman Al Hutchinson were also present. Senior Sinn Fein members Caitriona Ruane and Alex Maskey also attended.

The congregation heard details of Constable Gilmore’s relationship with his partner, Debbie, described as “the love of his life”.

Fr Des Loughran, celebrant of the Mass, said: “A love entered Kevin’s life and world in the beautiful form of Debbie. I cannot begin to imagine the pain you are in. Kevin was your whole life and your future.

“Baby Shannyn will be out of sorts for a little while and she will not be able to tell us what is wrong, and sadly she will never know what a great dad she had, but we will and we can tell her about him.

“For reasons we don’t know or understand, Kevin’s life and the lives of his colleagues ended tragically in the early hours of Sunday morning. In that moment it was not just him who was taken but a piece and part of each one of us.”

As relatives of Constable Gorman followed his coffin as it was carried from the church, members of both the GAA and soccer teams of which he was a member formed a guard of honour.

Two outriders drove in front of the cortege as it made its way to St Patrick’s in Ballynahinch, where Constable Gorman was buried in a private service.

Some of Constable James Magee’s PSNI colleagues carry his coffin into Dromore Cathedral yesterday. He joined the PSNI three years ago

A bright, compassionate officer who had just passed CID exams

By Victoria O’Hara in Dromore

The hundreds of mourners that spilled out of the church for the funeral of James Magee in the small market town of Dromore, Co Down, yesterday was a reflection of how much he was loved.

The life of the promising 27-year-old, who joined the PSNI only three years ago this month, was tragically cut short serving his community.

Three days after his death following the horrific car crash he was being laid to rest in his childhood parish.

High ranking officers, friends and colleagues listened to tributes including how his family spoke of his “utter loveliness as a son and brother”.

Among those who gathered for the emotional service in Dromore Cathedral was PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde as well as the DUP’s Jimmy Spratt and UUP MLA Jeffrey Donaldson.

Following a private prayer service at a local funeral home people gathered at the cathedral.

But such was the turnout the church was not big enough to hold the number of people wanting to pay their respects to the young constable.

At 11am the church bell rang and six PSNI officers solemnly carried their colleague’s coffin — adorned with simple white flowers — slowly into the cathedral.

Mr Magee’s sisters Rachel and Sarah, his twin, comforted their heartbroken mother Freda who along with her husband Bawn, watched as their only son’s remains were carried into the church.

As the service began mourners packed the cathedral with many spilling out of the building and more standing outside.

Others wanting to give their respects stood on the street, with one man turning to another and simply saying: “A sad day, a truly sad day.”

Leading the funeral service, Rev Stephen Lowry spoke of Mr Magee’s promising career.

“He enjoyed people, and loved to understand what made people tick,” he said.

“When he applied for the PSNI he thought like many that he would have to make a couple of attempts to gain a place. But no, with his high marks and aptitude he got in first time.

“So three years ago this month, in 2005, he began his training at Garnerville being posted in April, 2006 to Ardmore Station in Newry, a place he was very happy to be.”

During the service it also emerged Mr Magee had recently sat and passed the exams to get into the CID — which was his goal.

The young officer’s ability to make friends was also touched upon during the service.

Rev Lowry said Mr Magee had recently moved to Kilkeel and had made even more friends who enjoyed his “good nature and company”.

But the constable was looking forward to returning to Dromore, and plans were being made to it make his long-term home again.

“He loved the Mournes, walking in the hills, enjoying the air, and he and the family had spent many summers in the family holiday home in Newcastle,” Rev Lowry said.

Mr Magee’s “endless acts of kindness” along with his willingness and enthusiasm for his work were also highlighted during the service.

“His family speak of his utter loveliness as a son and brother. I share your admiration of James, and with the many gathered here today, offer thanks to God for the privilege of knowing him throughout my time here, and the joy of seeing a young man living life to the full with love and respect for God, for his parents, and for his many friends.

“We cannot thank God for the manner of the death he died, but we must thank him for the character of the life he lived,” Rev Lowry said.

Following the service Mr Magee’s remains were buried in Dromore Cathedral churchyard.

Crowds gather in the streets of Kilkeel yesterday for the funeral of Constable Kenny Irvine

Laid to rest on the fourth anniversary of his wedding day

By Simon Creer in Kilkeel

The remains of Constable Kenny Irvine leave Kilkeel Presbyterian Church after yesterday’s funeral service, followed by Constable Irvine's wife Andrea pushing their baby son Callum in a pram

The small fishing village of Kilkeel came to a standstill as Constable Kenny Irvine was laid to rest at the Presbyterian church in the centre of town.

The young officer died on Sunday morning in the tragic accident which also claimed the lives of three colleagues.

On what would have been his fourth wedding anniversary, his coffin was carried through the town from his family home at Mournview Crescent.

Along streets lined with onlookers, his wife Andrea pushed their young son Callum, barely six months old, at the head of a line of mourners behind her husband’s hearse. This is not the first tragedy to strike the family. Andrea and Kenny had previously lost their first son Joshua.

At 2:15pm the cortege arrived at the small stone church where it took a full 20 minutes for the procession, which filled the road, to file solemnly into the church. The coffin was covered with a white carnation, his gun club blazer and his constable’s peaked cap.

PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie attended in uniform. Local political figures also turned out to pay their respects including Jeffery Donaldson, Jim Wells and Jimmy Spatt.

Reverend Stephen Johnston led the service. In his homily he spoke of Kenny as a young man who had attained honours in the Boy’s Brigade.

Reverend Johnston went on to highlight Constable Irvine’s depth of involvement with his community and the way in which he rose to the top of the many things he undertook.

He said: “Kenny was very involved at the heart of this community. A member for some years of the pride of Ballinran band; treasurer of Ballyvea lodge; master of Ballymartin Blacksand and a founding member of the Ballyvea Gun Club.”

Speaking to the family he said: “Take a day at a time. Be there for one another, let love for each other, along with the support of friends and ultimately the grace and comfort of God sustain you and keep you today and in the days that lie ahead.”

Following the 45 minute service, a police march and guard of honour carried Constable Irvine’s coffin from the church and through town to the graveyard. Mr Irvine’s family again headed the procession, united in their grief.

Police chiefs and all shades of political opinion pay their respects

Unionist MLAs Jim Wells and Jeffrey Donaldson at the Magee funeral Sir Hugh Orde and ACC Judith Gillespie pay respects to Mr Magee

Last of the four officers due to be buried after funeral today

By Lesley-Anne Henry

The grief-stricken south Down community is preparing to say goodbye today to the fourth policeman killed in the horrendous weekend road accident.

Hundreds of mourners are expected to pack St Colman’s Church in Massforth outside Kilkeel to pay their last respects to popular community officer, Declan Greene.

The 39-year-old part-timer died alongside three colleagues when their patrol vehicle crashed into a wall on the coast road between Newry and Kilkeel on Sunday morning.

Constable Greene, who joined the PSNI in 2006, leaves behind heartbroken wife Roisin and four children Rory, 19, Darren, 16, Cormac, 5, and three-year-old Sophie.

Six years ago he lost three members of his family in the Tullymurray Lass fishing tragedy off the Co Down coast.

Requiem Mass, which will be said by Fr Peter O’Hare, starts at noon.

Senior police figures including Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI’s rural region Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and members of the Police Federation are expected to join the mourners.

Following the service Mr Greene will be laid to rest in the graveyard adjoining his family church.

Yesterday funerals were held for the three other police officers — Constables James Magee (27), Kenny Irvine (30) and Kevin Gorman (24) — who were in the vehicle with Mr Greene when it crashed.

The accident happened on the Moygannon Road between Warrenpoint and Kilkeel at about 4am on Sunday.

It is understood that the police 4x4 vehicle was the only vehicle involved in the collision. Police have renewed their appeals for information about the crash.

The four officers, who were based at Kilkeel police station, had been on their way to help colleagues dealing with a crowd in Rostrevor when tragedy struck.

A number of local people who tried in vain to rescue the policemen who were trapped in the vehicle when it burst into flames, have been praised for their efforts.

The PSNI has issued a fresh appeal for witnesses to the crash.

Senior investigating officer Inspector Ian Kennedy said anyone who had been at the scene and not yet spoken to police, or anyone who may have seen the liveried Shogun was asked to make contact with them.

Belfast Telegraph


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