The mother of New IRA murder victim Lyra McKee has died just weeks ahead of the first anniversary of her daughter’s killing
Joan Lawrie passed away in a Belfast hospital last night. The 29-year-old journalist had been the main carer for her disabled mum who was a single parent.
Lyra was shot dead by a dissident republican gunman during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry last April. Joan never recovered from losing the youngest of her six children to whom she was closest.
Lyra’s older sister, Nichola McKee Corner, announced her mother’s death in a Facebook post this morning. “It is with the greatest sadness that I share this. My mother, Joan Lawrie, passed away peacefully in hospital on 10th March.
“She is now at peace with her beloved daughter Lyra McKee.”
Nichola rounded on the New IRA whom she blamed for Joan’s death. “The b******* who murdered my baby sister should also be tried for the murder of my mother – they killed her the day they killed her precious baby girl,” she said.
“Mom, give our darling Lyra a huge hug and a million kisses from us. Love you both forever and always.
“My heart is comforted knowing that you are together again. Always in my heart. Love you Mom xoxoxoxo.”
Shortly before her murder, Lyra had moved to Derry to live with her girlfriend Sara Canning, but she returned to north Belfast regularly to look after her mother.
Lyra had written about how supportive Joan had been when her teenage daughter had told her she that she was gay. In a ‘Letter to my 14-year-old self’, Lyra recounted:
“You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. . . . You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt any more.
“You can’t get the words out so she says it: ‘Are you gay?’ And you will say, ‘Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.’ And instead of getting mad, she will reply ‘Thank God you’re not pregnant.’ ”
Joan’s health deteriorated significantly after Lyra’s murder. In January, she lost her mobile phone while a patient in the Royal Victoria Hospital.
It went missing during her two week stay. The phone had been a Christmas gift from Lyra and contained the last text messages that the mother and daughter had exchanged before Lyra’s death.
The family made a public appeal for help in locating the phone – stressing its huge sentimental value to Joan - but it was never returned.
A month after Lyra’s death, her mother was presented with an award in London honouring her daughter’s “outstanding commitment and contribution to journalism”.
Joan and Nichola attended the Regional Press Awards ceremony organised by the Society of Editors.
Last August, Joan broke down in tears at the launch of Lyra’s first book Angels with Blue Faces. It was an investigation into the 1981 Provisional IRA murder of Ulster Unionist MP, the Rev Robert Bradford.
Lyra’s family said it was a “bittersweet” moment seeing her book in print. They said they were immensely proud of her but wished she was there, celebrating her success with them, at the launch in Belfast’s Linenhall Library.
An anthology of the young journalist’s work is to be published next month by Faber & Faber. ‘Lyra McKee in her own words: Lost, Found, Remembered’ celebrates her talent, life and legacy.
The 29-year-old was shot dead on April 18 last year by a New IRA gunman while standing near a PSNI Land Rover. Video footage shows the masked paramilitary opening fire on the armoured vehicle with a handgun.
Joan Lawrie is survived by her children Gary, Joan, Nichola, David and Mary.