Belfast Telegraph

Family lays crusading mum of murdered teenager to rest

By Allan Preston

A priest paid tribute to the campaigning mother of a murdered teenager at her funeral yesterday.

Mourners gathered in west Belfast to pay their respects to Margaret McAlorum, whose daughter Megan was killed 13 years ago.

The 63-year-old passed away in hospital on Tuesday surrounded by her family.

She had battled long-term liver disease primary biliary cirrhosis for 25 years and this had become more severe over the last 18 months.

Megan was just 16 when she was killed in a forested area of Belfast in April 2004.

Her killer Thomas Purcell, a member of the Traveller community, had denied her murder at the time before pleading guilty at the last minute.

The family would face further hurt when they learned that Purcell had been moved to an English jail to finish his sentence without being told by the authorities.

Mrs McAlorum campaigned tirelessly to change the policy, and now victims' families are informed when a killer is released or transferred.

More than 300 gathered to pay their respects to the popular grandmother during Requiem Mass at St Oliver Plunkett Church.

She was later buried at the city cemetery beside her daughter's grave.

Parish priest Aidan Brankin said Mrs McAlorum had been the "driving force" in the campaign for Megan.

He told mourners: "It was so devastating for a parent, having to bury one of her children.

"The family were robbed of a daughter, sister and a special member of the family team.

"Not only did they suffer terrible injustice, but the circumstances for the family, where they were told nothing, really, really hurt."

Fr Brankin said Mrs McAlorum's campaign for Megan "took off so that other families would never have to go through that same injustice", and that "victims' family rights were changed forever".

Commenting on her strong faith, Fr Brankin added: "Margaret was the driving force, always thinking of others. The saint she turned to most in life was Padre Pio and would carry his prayer wherever she would go.

"She asked him at the time of Megan's death to take her home to God, now we do the same for Margaret herself. Please God she will now be with Megan and her other family members."

Born in Greencastle in 1954 to a closeknit family of 11, Margaret (nee Hillock) grew up in Turf Lodge.

She met her husband Frankie through mutual friends, marrying in Holy Trinity church in 1974 and had seven children.

Recalling happier times, the congregation laughed as Fr Brankin reminded them Mrs McAlorum was once known for sporting long hair down to her ankles.

"This came in very handy one day when her son got lost at the supermarket," he said.

"Margaret didn't even know he was lost. But being unable to see over people, her son lay down and underneath the groceries he saw her long hair moving up and down the next aisle.

"He never left her side for weeks after that."

He added that Mrs McAlorum was a devoted grandmother who was at the centre of family life.

Belfast Telegraph

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