28 November 2019 No Comments by The Northern Standard

• Michael McDonnell

THE PARENTS of a young man brutally murdered following a music festival in Carrickmacross eight years ago were dealt another cruel blow in recent weeks when their son’s grave (where his brother is also interred) was desecrated by heartless vandals. Gavin O’Connor (22) from Ballynaclose, Kilmainhamwood, Co Meath (near Kingscourt, Co Cavan) had been found lying on a minor roadway in Lisdoonan with serious head injuries in the early hours of Saturday 4th June 2011 and pronouced dead at Drogheda Hospital later that evening. It transpired that a then 19- year-old Castleblayney man, Conor McClelland, had stolen Gavin’s car in Carrickmacross while the musician slept in it.

At a special sitting of the Central Criminal held in Monaghan in February 2014, details were given about how McClelland struck Mr O’Connor with a rock as he struggled to wake up and later drove the car over him. As reported in detail in this newspaper at the time, McClelland was found guilty of murder despute his denials (he had offered to plead to manslaugher) and given a mandatory life sentence. The grief of Gavin’s parents, Gerard and Helena O’Connor of Kilmainhamwood. was redoubled when their older son, truck driver Patrick (33), was killed in a single-vehicle car accident near Naven in 2013.

But their ongoing heartache was compounded yet again when they learned of the act of wanton vandalism at the plot they have lovingly maintained for both their sons at the cemetery adjacent to the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Kells Road, Kingscourt. They received a phone call about the incident on Saturday week last and were horrified to find that insulting graffiti was scrawled in blue permanent marker across the memorials to each of their sons.

Some items were broken and others removed. The stolen artefacts, including plaques and ornaments reflecting the deceased brothers’ resepective interests in trucks and guitars, were subsequently found dumped at the side of the road nearby. These items had in fact been found on the prevous Wednesday, making it likely the vandalism itself took place on Monday 11th or Tuesday 12th November.

The graffiti, which has since been removed, had included the words “unjust conviction” and other unfounded allegations, profanities and abuse. Gerry recalls that he and Helena broke down in tears and felt “absolutely sick” upon seeing what had happened. They were also unable to comprehend why anyone would carry out such an act so many years after Gavin’s death. Again asking why somebody would want to cause them such pain, he pointed out that the grave was kept immaculately and was “all we have left of our two boys”. “Our heads are wrecked This opened a wound on us that wasn’t healed,” Mr O’Connor told the Northern Standad.

The couple were heartened, however, despite all the distress, by the huge outflowing of community support they experienced in the wake of the incident. A friend had helped remove the graffiti and dozens of people attended the grave on the Sunday…

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