Friends left devastated after Northern Ireland woman's death in Turkey
FRIENDS of a Co Down woman who started a new life in Turkey have been devastated by news of her sudden death.
Newtownards woman Nicola Irwin (47) had travelled to the country in June to be with her long-standing Turkish partner.
The ex-care worker for the South Eastern Trust, known to friends as Nikki, had settled in the coastal resort city of Fethiye (inset below), on the Turkish Riviera.
One friend last night told Sunday Life Nikki was known as an animal lover, as "gentle and spiritual" and a fitness fanatic.
"I'm genuinely knocked for six by this, I saw Nikki before she went to Turkey and you have never seen a woman so full of vitality and zest for life," said Carolanne Ritchie.
"She was absolutely in love with the idea of starting a brand new life in Turkey, she was over the moon."
Though Ms Irwin had a partner in Turkey who she visited regularly, the friend said it was doubtful if that was enough of a reason for her to move there full time.
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"Nikki was too strong for that, she wasn't afraid to follow her own heart and her own dreams," said Ms Ritchie.
"When she wasn't working she was at the gym, she was fitness and yoga mad, and she was very gentle, very spiritual - just a nice all-round person."
Dozens of friends, both in Northern Ireland and Turkey, posted tributes to Ms Irwin on her Facebook page.
Linda Walton said: "I'm in shock, I can't believe it. Nicola was such a lovely caring independent girl that loved animals. She will be missed by many."
She added: "I was talking to her the day before she went to Turkey to live. She was so looking forward to a new chapter of her life in Turkey. Such a beautiful soul she shined. She will be deeply missed x."
Another friend wrote: "Broken-hearted hearing the news. You were a very special lady who oozed class always.
"We shared far more than a birthday Nikki and I am honoured to have known you sweet angel."
Tributes also followed from her granddaughter and niece.
One Turkish friend posted a photograph of them together, captioned: "My sister Nicola I will never forget you. RIP."
When Ms Irwin announced she was moving to Turkey to live, many friends wished her well and congratulated her for following her dreams.
One said: "Want to wish you lots of love and success on your adventures in Turkey. I knew you would eventually make it long term out there in paradise. All the best Nic."
Thanking one well wisher, Ms Irwin said: "Thank you...best decision we ever made, we both can't wait."
Prior to leaving for Turkey, Nicola had told of her excitement over the move on Facebook.
She was a prolific poster on Facebook and she shared numerous loved-up pictures of herself with partner Bobby Erz.
In May, partner Bobby posted on her Facebook: "You're an amazing woman and I am very happy to be your man."
Nikki replied: "We are both lucky babes x xxxx".
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office told Sunday Life last night: "We are urgently seeking confirmation from the Turkish authorities following reports of a death of a British woman in Fethiye."