The sister of a man stabbed to death in Ballymena has said no words will ever explain her family’s heartbreak at their loss.
Jamie-Leigh Martin told of her hurt and anger after her brother Jason (31) was murdered at a house in Orkney Drive on Saturday.
Police have charged an 18-year-old man with his murder. He is due to appear in court this morning.
Jason, a father to two young boys, was from the Ballykeel area of the Co Antrim town, where he was widely known among local people.
His mother, Angela Martin, said she has been touched by the support from local people.
She told the Belfast Telegraph: “We’re overwhelmed by the response and the support from the local community. It has been tremendous.”
Jason’s uncle, Ian Thompson, said the family have been left devastated.
“It’s just terrible,” he said. “Jason was such a popular bloke, your typical easy-going guy.
“I was due to travel to Spain this morning, but I found myself on the way to a morgue to identify Jason.
“It just goes to show how things can change in the blink of an eye.
“His mum is heartbroken to have lost her blue-eyed boy. It is devastating.”
Jason’s heartbroken sister added in a post on Facebook: “No words will ever explain the heartbreak our whole family is going through right now.
“We are so humbled by everyone’s messages and calls; they haven’t gone unnoticed. We are just trying to get our heads around this awful ordeal that has happened.
“I am not sure how life is going to be without him, he was the life and soul of this family and I just wish I could have him back to annoy me again. I would give anything.
“Not one person had a bad word to say about my brother, we are so hurt and angry right now.
“The next few days are going to be unbearable, but we have so many people around us to help get us through, and the memories we will always have of the big eejit. Wish I would have told you more that I love you.”
The funeral is to be held at Ballykeel Presbyterian Church, details of which will be confirmed in due course.
Rev Dr Martin McNeely, who knew the victim well, said the congregation and wider community has been plunged into grief.
“Jason was universally liked and universally known by everybody and it really is an extremely difficult time. There is real upset and shock that he has been taken,” he said.
“There is a real sense that the community is walking with the family.”
The minister drew a parallel with the devastating end to the six-day long search for 14-year-old Noah Donohoe in north Belfast.
Police confirmed on Saturday that Noah’s body had been located by search teams in a drain complex in the city.
The minister said the news on Saturday afternoon, following the death of Mr Martin, added to the despair within the community.
“The news from Belfast is definitely resonant. A palpable sense of sadness and heartbreak for both families has been felt here in Ballykeel,” he said.
Jason was a devoted Liverpool fan and local league footballer.
His former captain at intermediate side Chimney Corner FC, Mark Butler, said: “He was a really good guy, footballing-wise he was a hard-working footballer and in the changing room he was a real character.”
Other amateur clubs joined in tribute to Jason, who played for various sides in the Ballymena area.
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley also offered his condolences.
“It’s utterly tragic for all concerned. What was to be an evening of enjoyment turned into heartbreak,” he said.
“People in the area are absolutely stunned.
“My heart goes out to the family. I just hope that some justice is brought.”
Alliance councillor for Ballymena Patricia O’Lynn added: “My thoughts are with the victim and his loved ones. I offer my deepest sympathies to them.”
Yesterday afternoon, PSNI detectives confirmed that an 18-year-old had been charged with murder.
He will appear at Belfast Magistrates Court via videolink today.
As is usual procedure, the charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service.