Belfast Telegraph

Former Irish League star Stephen McAlorum opens up about murder of his sister Megan

Stephen McAlorum, who now plays for Sport & Leisure Swifts. Credit: Mark Marlow
Stephen McAlorum, who now plays for Sport & Leisure Swifts. Credit: Mark Marlow

Fifteen years on from the brutal murder of his sister Megan, former Irish league star Stephen McAlorum has spoken of the devastating effect it had on his family and how it nearly ended his career.

Megan McAlorum was just 16-years-old when she was killed by Thomas Purcell in west Belfast in 2004.

At 17, Stephen was just starting his football career in earnest with Irish League side Glenavon when his life was turned upside down.

On Easter Monday, 2004, the midfielder was due to play for the reserves when he heard his sister had never returned home after finishing a shift at the Glenowen Inn the previous night.

"It was very unusual that Megan would’ve stayed out. We phoned round all her friends and they were saying ‘Megan went home, Megan went home’. Even then, never in a million years did you think anything like this," Stephen McAlorum, now 32, told The Irish News.

"But then I remember sitting in the chair looking out the window, towards where the wee car park is, and two police Land Rovers pulled up. At that stage I knew something was up.

"It took them half an hour from talking out in the car park to walk the hundred yards to our front door. You just got that feeling in your stomach that something wasn’t right."

Megan McAlorum, who was murdered in 2004
Megan McAlorum, who was murdered in 2004

It later transpired that Megan McAlorum had met up with friends after finishing work, before splitting up later when she went to visit another friend at a fast-food restaurant.

In the early hours of the morning she was walking home when she accepted a lift from 16-year-old Thomas Purcell, who was known to Megan.

The next day her body was found in forested area just outside Belfast.

Stephen said her death left his family devastated and the brutality of her murder meant they "never really got to say goodbye to Megan because it was a closed coffin".

“My mummy never really got over it; she talked about Megan every day – constantly. Constantly," he added.

“Our Megan’s room hasn’t changed one bit – not one bit of wallpaper, not any clothes… there’s a TV sitting in there that must be 30 year old. Nothing will be touched in it.

“All of us, the whole family’s been in it at different times. When people are feeling a wee bit down, they would go in.”

In April 2016, Thomas Purcell plead guilty to Megan's murder as his trial was about to begin and was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison. His term is up for review this month.

“My mummy always said that if he was let out, he would do it again - then there would be questions to be answered. Fifteen years for what he done… it wasn’t just a murder, it was horrific. He brutalised her. She had 54 fractures in her skull, that’s how bad her injuries were," Stephen said.

"Things can happen, accidents can happen, but for what way he left her, it was pure evil. He took my sister up there with one objective – to murder her.

“He took away a young girl at 16, he took away her life but yet he’s able to live his life in his prime. He has everything to look forward to. He'll probably go and get a new identity, he’ll probably go and get housed somewhere.

“He’ll get all the benefits, and for what? For murdering a young girl? I don’t think that’s fair.”

Margaret McAlorum, who passed away in 2017, fiercely campaigned for justice on her daughter's behalf. When Purcell was transferred to an English jail to serve his sentence without the McAlorums being informed, her lobbying led to a change in policy whereby victims' families are now told of the release date or any transfer of convicted killers.

Stephen McAlorum almost gave up football in the wake of his sister's death, however he continued because of the support of his biggest fan - his father.

“He went everywhere with me; went to training with me down in Lurgan, it was always me and him going to football together. The reason why I went back to football was to keep my daddy’s mind off Megan," he said.

“If it was up to me, I wouldn’t have played football again. I wanted to finish, but I knew if I had retired it would’ve affected my daddy too. He wouldn’t have been getting out.

“I ended up going to DC [Donegal Celtic] when everything was going on. My daddy still went to every match every Saturday, that was his focus away from what was going on in the house.

“I knew I needed to help him, and in the long term I was helping myself. Even if it was only for an hour and a half, I knew by me playing that football match that I could take his mind away from it.”

Stephen's father Frankie also had a request for his son, to win an Irish Cup medal.

To do that, he left Donegal Celtic in 2013 to join Glentoran. In his first season with the Glens, they won the Irish Cup and Stephen was able to grant his father's wish.

“My dad’s birthday’s on the ninth of June, the Irish Cup final was in early May, so for his birthday I got my shirt signed by the whole team and got the whole thing framed for him with the medal," he said.

“Do you know where that framed shirt sits now? It’s in our Megan’s room. Just sits there... and that’s where it’ll stay.”

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