Family open up about the grim reality of life on the streets, following tragic death of nephew
Peter Joseph McCormick was known as PJ to his family.
He was 31 — prison and drugs dominated his life — an addiction to cocaine behind his crimes.
A talented footballer in his youth, PJ spiralled out of control when his mother suddenly died.
His dad Peter and grandparents, Winnie and Lewis, looked after him.
“He wasn’t brought up to do what he did. Nobody knows what will come to their own door,’’ says his aunt Sonia.
“Our PJ came from a good home, my mummy and daddy are good people. That was their daughter they lost, then a son.”
That loss came seven weeks ago when PJ — who mainly lived on the streets of Belfast — was found dead in a house in Lisburn.
“Everyone is devastated. Although we were expecting a rap on the door, we were never prepared for it,’’ said Sonia.
“Police arrived at mummy’s door because she was next of kin. They said he was in the Royal hospital morgue and they needed someone to identify his body.
“My mummy and daddy came up here (to Sonia’s house) squealing. They couldn’t talk, couldn’t tell me what was wrong..
“He’s with his mummy now. Maybe if his mummy hadn’t died his life would have taken a different turn.
“My daddy still waits up on him, sleeps on the sofa. They (grandparents) will never be the same. Our PJ had a good heart and when he was off everything, which wasn’t very often, he was a good kid like.”
PJ started smoking cannabis when he was 14 and eventually became hooked on cocaine. He begged, borrowed, and stole, to get the cash to pay for it.
“He was an opportunist. You would have blinked and he would have had your purse. He would have stole off everybody just for a hit. Every time he did it he had drugs on him,’’ admits Sonia.
“He stole from all of us, money, jewellery, anything, but we forgave him.”
Sonia says PJ seemed to do well when he was in jail — in terms of detoxing and trying to better himself.
But that all went out the window within days of being released.
“When he tried to get clean one time he apologised to all of us, he knew what he had done. He was sorry for hurting us, said his head was messed up,’’ recalls Sonia
“At the end of the day its an addiction, it’s somebody’s child.”
This family want to paint a true picture of just how PJ’s life went off the rails to warn others, this could happen to anyone regardless of where they live.
“The drugs are too easy got. The price of them is like a bag of sweets, you can get them for nothing now,’’ reveals Sonia.
“Those dealing it are just evil. Getting people addicted, they wouldn’t be doing it to their own children.
“Those getting addicted are getting younger. I’ve seen kids doing cocaine at 12 and 13, sniffing it in front of you as if it were normal.”
Her message to the politicians here: “Help us. What is going to happen to the next generation of children. You are now afraid to bring children up. I’ve six grandkids, what are they going to be able to get their hands on?”