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Family of murdered boxer tell of their heartache

Eamonn Magee on holiday in Egypt
Andrea McKernon

Police were last night still questioning a 32-year-old man about the brutal murder of Eamonn Magee.

Detectives believe the killer of the promising young boxer lay in wait while he visited a friend.

Mr Magee (22), whose father Eamonn is a former world champion, was stabbed multiple times in the garden of the house at Summerhill Park in Twinbrook on the outskirts of west Belfast.

The attack, described by police as vicious, happened as the engineering student went to check on a pizza delivery during the early hours of Saturday.

Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, who is leading the murder investigation, said: "Nobody would have known that Eamonn would have been coming out of the house to look for the pizza delivery, therefore we believe that the person was lying in wait for Eamonn as he would have come out of the house."

The arrested man is believed to be a Turkish national who works in a Belfast night spot.

He was arrested by the PSNI at commercial premises in Dunmurry following the stabbing.

DCI McVea described the suspect as a "strong line of inquiry" but declined to comment further on whether he knew Mr Magee or the friend he was visiting.

The knife used in the killing is believed to have been stolen from a property nearby which has been searched by police.

"We are particularly interested in the time between 1.30 in the morning and 3am," the officer said.

"We believe the attack happened at 2.30 in the morning. But we believe the person may have been in the area for some time prior to the attack.

"Eamonn sadly has been attacked instantly as he has come out the back door into the garden. He has been stabbed a number of times."

Residents tried in vain to save Mr Magee, who succumbed to his injuries shortly after arriving at hospital.

A post-mortem was being carried out yesterday as the victim's grief-stricken family awaited the return of his remains.

Sitting around their kitchen table in Hannahstown, Mary Magee broke down several times as she recalled her "beautiful" son, the youngest of three children.

The murder victim, a former pupil of St Mary's CBS, had turned 22 in April and just finished the first year of an engineering degree at the Ulster University.

His mother, who had driven in a state of panic to Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in the desperate hope that her son would survive, was told that he probably died immediately, having been stabbed through the heart as well as his lung.

Also struggling with the loss yesterday was Eamonn Magee snr, an ex-WBU welterweight champion, and the victim's sister Áine Máire, who woke the family in the early hours with news of the stabbing.

Her older brother Francis was on his way home from Dublin airport yesterday after flying in from Belgium where he works.

"Áine Máire woke me up and told me Eamonn had been stabbed. She had called his mobile phone after she heard knocking at the door and had looked out and saw that Eamonn's car wasn't at the house," said Mrs Magee.

Her daughter said the woman the young boxer had been with answered his phone and "was telling me that Eamonn had been stabbed, that's all she was saying".

"Eamonn was my best buddy," she said.

"But I just thought it was some stupid fight and that he was all right."

 

The Magee family said they believe the attack was connected to a dispute over a woman he had recently met and briefly been seeing.

"They had met at the gym were Eamonn worked as a personal trainer. He had split up from his long-term girlfriend recently," said his mother.

All around the Magee house are photographs of their son, with his bedroom walls showing his boxing certificates and medals.

Mrs Magee said on Friday he had run 13 miles in preparation for the Lisburn half-marathon.

"He was so full of life - he was doing the half marathon for the charity Tiny Life," she said.

"He looked after himself so well. He was always my side-kick, my baby who always looked after me."

His father, whose professional career spanned 33 fights and included Irish and Commonwealth titles, said: "He was a pleasure to rear and would do anything for you. There was no badness in him.

"He was so into his sport, he was never any bother to us and he was a member of every boxing club going - they all wanted him.

"Everyone always said that he boxed, moved and looked like me in the ring. If you didn't look at his face, you would think you were looking at me. He was right-handed but wanted to be southpaw like me."

Mrs Magee added: "To look at young Eamonn, people swore they were seeing his father in all but his face.

"His build, his height and they way he fought in the ring was just like his daddy, even his toes when he was born, was just the same as Eamonn's.

"We were always together, we went on holiday together and he loved going abroad with me. I am just broken hearted.

"Eamonn will wear the suit he wore when he became godfather to his nephew in his coffin."

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