Belfast Telegraph

Christmas won't be the same without dad, says murdered Ian Ogle's daughter

Toni Johnston-Ogle holding a picture of her murdered father Ian
Toni Johnston-Ogle holding a picture of her murdered father Ian

By John Breslin

The daughter of murdered loyalist community worker Ian Ogle has told of the family's pain at spending a first Christmas without him.

Mr Ogle was beaten and stabbed multiple times by a gang near his home off the Albertbridge Road in east Belfast in January.

His daughter Toni Johnston-Ogle said: "There will be such an empty hole in the house this Christmas. Our hearts are broken.

"When I just think back to last year, sitting at the table having a great time, laughing and joking... we just did not know what was coming."

Mr Ogle, known locally as 'Big O', was at the heart of the family Christmas celebrations, but the season also coincides with the birthdays of his children.

Toni turns 28 today while brother Ryan's 24th birthday was yesterday.

"We always celebrated those few other things other than Christmas and there was always banners up for both of us in the house," said Toni.

When it came to Christmas, Toni recalls her father as being "a bit of a big child".

She added: "Obviously we got older but he was still a big child and a big character for all his nieces and nephews."

His sudden and brutal loss has affected the whole extended family.

Toni with her dad Ian
Toni with her dad Ian

Visits to the wider clan always followed the smaller gathering at the Ogles' Cluan Place home.

As Toni recalled, great nephew, 10-year-old Riley, told his mum: "Christmas won't be the same any more now Uncle Ian isn't here to see what Santa brought us all."

The murdered man was always the one to lead the charge to put up the tree and decorations and was never allowed near any of the presents as he would be too tempted to open them, Toni recalled.

While she, Ryan and their mother, Vera Johnston, Mr Ogle's partner of 30 years, have a large extended family to wrap some comfort around them this Christmas, the hole in their lives cannot be filled.

"We really have no interest in the birthdays, no interest in Christmas," added Toni.

"My Mum is devastated even though she is trying to be strong for us.

"I think it is just going to be very depressing." The murder of the 45-year-old took place on January 27, just yards from the home where he shared that Christmas dinner table with his family just weeks earlier.

"If only we had known last Christmas what was going to happen, but sure how could we have?" said Toni. Alderman Sonia Copeland, the family's local representative, said her thoughts are with them this Christmas.

"As we all spend time with our families this Christmas, this wee family will have an empty chair at the dinner table," said Ms Copeland.

"Ian loved Christmas and would have been the life and soul of his family which he adored beyond words."

She added: "I would hope that in 2020 those who carried out this cowardly and brutal attack on Ian, nearly a year ago, are dealt with through the judicial system, so that this family can get some closure to their nightmare."

Mr Ogle was beaten and stabbed 11 times in the back during the attack by a gang of at least five men.

Three suspects have appeared in court charged in connection with the murder.

Mr Ogle's daughter previously revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that her family was the subject of 18 months of intimidation by individuals believed to be linked to the UVF.

This intimidation apparently began after Ryan was accused of giving a "dirty look" to a supposed UVF member in a bar.

During a hearing involving one of the accused, the prosecution said the attack followed an altercation between Mr Ogle and several individuals earlier the same evening. Five men then arrived at his home, after which Mr Ogle was beaten and stabbed.

Toni, who has discovered a tough, combative voice in the aftermath of her father's slaying, a few weeks after his death led hundreds of women in a protest march through east Belfast, with the aim of taking the streets "back from thugs." The demonstration was inspired by International Women's Day.

At the head of the protest march, from the scene of the murder off Albertbridge Road to CS Lewis Square on the Newtownards Road, was a banner declaring "Justice for East Belfast".

Toni urged the crowd: "Please do not let my dad die in vain. Take a stand against these thugs, look after each other and take east Belfast back."

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