Northern Ireland

Megan McAlorum: Murderer of west Belfast teenager died from ‘catastrophic’ head injuries in crash

Thomas Purcell (36) was critically injured in a crash last month.

West Belfast teenager Megan McAlorum was murdered by Thomas Purcell in 2004.
West Belfast teenager Megan McAlorum was murdered by Thomas Purcell in 2004.

THE murderer of a west Belfast teenager died from “catastrophic” head injuries after a crash in England last month, an inquest has heard.

Thomas Purcell was around the same age as Megan McAlorum (16) when he took her life almost 20 years ago on April 11 2004.

Purcell had offered his unsuspecting victim a lift in his car as she walked home after spending Easter Sunday with friends in the Hunting Lodge bar.

Her badly beaten body was later discovered in a forest near Dunmurry, having suffered 54 fractures to her skull.

It was also suspected she had been raped, but this had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Denying her murder at first, even pretending to have discovered the body himself, Purcell was sentenced to 15 years in jail – a sentence Megan’s family considered too lenient at the time.

Before his 21st birthday, he was transferred from Hydebank Wood young offenders centre to a detention centre in Oxford – claiming he would be at risk in the high security Maghaberry prison – before his eventual release in 2021.

He had originally been denied parole in 2019, having been considered unsafe to be released into the community.

An Oxfordshire coroner has now detailed how Purcell was driving a car on March 4 between Oxford and Cheltenham when his MG ZS car collided with a Citroen Berlingo van, with Purcell suffering catastrophic head injuries before his death in hospital on March 14.

The driver of the van was badly injured but is said to be recovering.

Megan McAlorum (16) was murdered in 2004
Megan McAlorum (16) was murdered in 2004

Speaking to the Andersontown News, Ms McAlorum’s sister Lynne said the family had mixed emotions when informed of Purcell’s death.

“The only comfort it brings is that he will never be able to do what he did to Megan ever again,” she said.

“Megan’s 20th anniversary is coming up here in April. When I heard the news, I just thought of Megan and my mummy Margaret as well, who campaigned so hard for victims.”

Megan’s mother Margaret, who passed away in 2017, had successfully campaigned to change the law after she had to learn from the media about Purcell’s prison transfer to Oxford.

A date for Purcell’s full inquest has been set for September this year.