Belfast Telegraph

Newry reacts following deaths - the sadness on the streets is palpable

Council chair Mark Murnin (centre) and SDLP colleagues Justin McNulty MLA and Cllr Michael Savage at the scene
Council chair Mark Murnin (centre) and SDLP colleagues Justin McNulty MLA and Cllr Michael Savage at the scene
Declan McChesney
Michael Scott
Flowers left at the murder scene
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

On the benches outside Tesco Extra in the heart of Newry city centre, several elderly couples are sitting with their shopping bags.

They are all reading newspapers, shaking their heads and talking to each other in hushed tones about the horrific events which unfolded just around the corner.

"It's sad," is the common reply when asked what they all think about the deaths of three people in the quiet complex of flats at Glin Ree Court.

You can see the top of the flats from where they sit now, the flats where 37-year-old Columbian Giselle Marimon-Herrera and her 15-year-old daughter Allison lost their lives along with an as-yet-unnamed 38-year-old man.

"No, we didn't know them. It's sad." The heads shake again.

And that is the mood of the city - the word 'sad' crops up in almost every conversation.

On Thursday MLA Justin McNulty described the murder-suicide that shook the city straddling the Down-Armagh border as casting a dark cloud over the area.

You can see what he meant, both in the skies above and on the faces of those on the ground.

The cold, the greyness and the dampness of the day permeates through the people as they huddle through the network of streets either side of the river. The mood, today at least, isn't ready to lift.

"It seems like everyone is a bit stunned," said Michael Scott, who has been editor at local newspaper The Newry Democrat for the past three years, keeping a close watch on local community issues.

"You could tell something was up without knowing," he said.

"Our office is right beside a supermarket and you can guarantee Newry High School pupils will be piling in there, all bubbly and full of chat. But they were quiet.

"You could overhear conversations. They knew the young girl. There was a shock and a real sadness in those conversations that something as awful as this could have happened right on their own doorstep, to one of their classmates. The day didn't feel normal at all.

"And the fact that there have been so few facts up until now in a relatively small place suggests there are some unpleasant details in this.

"But Newry is now a place where people tend to keep themselves to themselves."

People keeping themselves to themselves is one thing, but word, if not details, soon gets around.

In Hill Street Declan McChesney has been running Newry's oldest independent shop at Cahill Bros for the past 45 years and has seen the town grow into a city over the years.

He admitted the centre has been a sad place since the news of the three deaths broke.

"It's hard to comprehend something like this has happened in our midst," he said.

"Obviously people are talking about it, but it's difficult to find someone who really knew the people involved.

"We have people moving in and out all the time, from all parts of the world. We often don't know who is living around the corner.

"As a society perhaps we simply don't reach out to the people we live our lives alongside and I find that sad.

"Perhaps a lot of people are sitting now and thinking they should be getting to know all the people who have come to live amongst us, making them feel more at home."

A short walk through the rain, over the city centre bridge and a couple of hundred yards along Downshire Road, Glin Ree Court sits back off the main road.

The police cordon has gone and everyone is free to walk past the flat where tragedy unfolded.

No-one is around until the council chairman Mark Murnin walks up the shallow hill, accompanied by Mr McNulty and local councillor Michael Savage to lay a wreath at the front door of the block of eight flats.

The three SDLP representatives stand in silence for a moment, paying their respects to three people who came to live and work in their community.

"We want to extend a message of sympathy on behalf of the citizens of the borough," said Mr Murnin, as he moves away.

All is still and the complex returns to a hushed kind of mourning.

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