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Video: Widow's anguish as Pat Ward pal charged with his murder: 'The pair were like brothers'

Exclusive: Shock as close family friend charged with slaying loving dad ward

By John Toner

The grieving widow of Pat Ward has revealed the man charged with his murder was like a brother to the slain amateur boxer.

Ellie Ward (29) told Sunday Life one of her husband's suspected killers, Niall Cox (23), was a lifelong friend of Mr Ward and the pair had grown up together.

Cox, alongside Karen McDonald (33), appeared at Dungannon Magistrates Court on Wednesday accused of the murder of Pat Ward, in Clogher, Co Tyrone.

Distraught widow Ellie told of her shock at the fact someone so close to the family could be arrested and charged in relation to the crime.

She said: "Pat and Niall grew up together, they were teenage friends. They used to play in the streets in Sligo and they knew each other like the back of their hands.

"Pat's mother was like a second mother to Niall, what they had he had in terms of food and clothing.

"To be honest and to be truthful, I wish it was someone who I'd never met who was arrested for this. For someone who knew Pat and knew the family so well to be arrested is horrible.

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"He was like family to us and was treated that way."

Mrs Ward also told of how she went looking for Pat in the early hours of Friday, February 8. "I walked back to the house and called the police, I thought Pat might have been arrested.

"I tried his phone and couldn't get through, my neighbour called me and asked if I'd heard from Pat and told me the alleyway was a crime scene. I thought maybe Pat had done something he shouldn't have.

Ellie Ward.
Ellie Ward.

murdered

"I was told a body had been found in the alleyway and I knew from then. I walked out to the front door and past the gate and dropped to my knees. I didn't want to accept it.

"I know in my heart and soul when Pat was getting murdered, he was calling out for me. We protected each other.

"Since then, my whole life has been turned upside down. I don't go to places where I have been with Pat, it feels like a really, really bad dream that I keep thinking I'm going to wake up from.

"I keep thinking he's going to walk into the house or he's going to call me and tell me it's only a dream. It doesn't feel real.

"Pat was a very loving, caring person, especially with his kids. He was a family man who adored his kids. His youngest is 15 months in a few days and he'll never remember him, even though he adored that child so much.

Niall Cox.
Niall Cox.

"His youngest daughter thinks he's on a boat to England and he's going to come back, my eldest daughter keeps asking me ,'When are we going to see daddy'?

"It's caused an awful lot of stress and trauma in my life, people keep telling me I need to be strong, but I can't let go of this.

"I don't see tomorrow, tomorrow is black to me. I want to go back in time to get back those memories and times we had together. I don't want to continue life without him. Where does my life go from here? What he had, I had. We were bread and butter.

Pat Ward
Pat Ward

"My soulmate has been taken away and I just feel numb. The days are a blur, people are speaking to me and it's just washing over me. He was here one minute and gone the next, God rest him."

Mrs Ward also spoke of her pain at the thought of Pat missing out on the future life they had planned together.

She added: "We went to Dubai last year for a few days and we were going to book it again this year for 10 days.

"My daughter is making her communion in May and he was going to give her a fabulous day because she deserves it and obviously he's not going to be there now.

"We had so many plans for the future, he was looking forward to watching his children grow up.

"He hoped his son would be a super heavyweight champion because he loved the boxing. You don't know who you have until you're on your own. We always knew we had each other."

Niall Cox and Karen McDonald were remanded in custody after their Wednesday court appearance, which saw angry scenes in the public gallery.

Mr Ward's brother, Tom (23), was killed in a hatchet attack outside his parents' home in Sligo in 2007 and youngest brother, Terrance, told Sunday Life of his shock at losing another brother in a brutal murder. Terrence (22) said: "He was my best friend and the only one who really helped me out. We used to see or speak to each other every day and it's a massive shock.

"I don't know how I'm going to cope without him. Big Bang (Pat's nickname) will never be replaced. He was one of a kind, a true legend who lived life the way he wanted to and I'm happy he did that.

"He was the sort of man who said, 'Live for today because tomorrow might never come', that was his attitude and the way he looked at things. He lived life to the fullest."

The Ward family is awaiting the release of Pat's body, so he can be buried, but are as yet unsure of when they will be able to lay him to rest.

jtoner@sundaylife.co.uk

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