Belfast Telegraph

Family still crave justice 17 years on from Thomas Breen's London murder

Murder victim Thomas Breen and crime reporter son Stephen
Murder victim Thomas Breen and crime reporter son Stephen
Stephen Breen

By Gillian Halliday

The son of a Co Down man who was murdered in an unprovoked knife attack in London has said he hasn't given up hope that the killers will be brought to justice nearly two decades on.

Thomas Breen (50) from Downpatrick died on August 11, 2002. He was brutally knifed in the chest by two male attackers after he left a pub in Camden with a work colleague.

Yesterday marked the 17th anniversary of the married father-of-two's death.

No one has ever been charged in connection to the murder, much to the devastation of his widow Lorraine and sons Stephen and Paul.

Speaking ahead of the anniversary of his father's death Stephen Breen, a former Sunday Life reporter and now a Dublin-based crime journalist with the Irish Sun, said his family's desire for justice has never wavered.

"It is hard to believe it was 17 years ago. It was a terrible event that happened and it never leaves you," he said.

"Seventeen years on now and you learn to live with it. You learn to cope with it. You can't dwell on it.

"Obviously I miss my dad, I think about him all the time. But I'm not going to let the people that did this destroy our lives."

He added: "I don't hate the people that did this. I don't think about them and I'm conscious of the fact that if they did this to my dad, then they may have targeted someone else as well.

"You always have hope that there is justice at the end of the day. Nothing's going to bring him back, but I certainly don't hate these people."

The journalist, who was 29 at the time of his father's death, said police investigating the case had concluded that his father - who was known as Tom - was the victim of a random attack. In the summer of 2002 Camden was in the grip of a violent crimewave which saw six people - including Mr Breen - murdered in a string of unrelated killings on the streets.

The Co Down man, who had been born in Belfast, was working in London as a builder when he was targeted on Camden High Street.

His workmate was also wounded during the incident, but escaped serious injury.

Over the years attempts have been made to close the investigation by the Metropolitan Police.

Substantial rewards, including from Scotland Yard, have also been offered in a bid to apprehend the killers.

A number of politicians, including Labour MP Sir Keir Starmer, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, have publicly asked for the case to be reviewed, which is going to happen in due course, revealed Stephen.

"We're not the only family. I know that out there are dozens of families in the UK and Ireland who have never got justice for their loved ones," he said.

The journalist said he comes across cases which have been solved two, sometimes three decades later. As such, he is hopeful that his father's murder will one day be one of them.

"I'd also like to understand why. It was so random and unprovoked."

Paying tribute to his dad, Stephen added: "He was such a caring father, he was more like a friend to me. I remember a happy home and his humour. He was a gentlemen, a good guy who brought joy to our lives."

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