Derry dad who died in explosion was “loving and caring”

The late Jeff McLaughlin

The late Jeff McLaughlin

Inishowen Coroner’s Court yesterday heard how a Carndonagh-born man, who died following an explosion in his house in Malin Head, had spent the last hours of his life, ‘trick-or-treating’ with his children in Derry.

At the inquest into the death of 42-years-old Jeffrey McLaughlin on Hallowe’en night two years ago, the court was told that the father of three “lived for his wains.”

Neighbours of the Donegal optician told the inquest how they had heard an “almighty bang” on the night of his death.

Michael Glackin, who lived nearby, said he thought a plane had hit the house having saw debris falling from the sky.

In her deposition the late Mr. McLaughlin’s wife, Martina, said that on that night they had an argument - which was unusual for them - and he had left their Mansefield Grove home in Derry, taking his keys.

“He was not argumentative, that was one of the things I loved about him,” she said.

Later that night she was awoken by a thump on the door when a PSNIofficer asked her if she owned a house in Malin Head, as one had been reported to be on fire.

“I wished Jeff had been there with me,” she said. “I depended on him for things like that.”

Members of the Emergency Services told the inquest how the house in Malin Head was completely destroyed in the explosion.

The court heard how the body of Jeffrey McLaughlin was found lying face down at the rear of the house. In his pocket he had two sets of keys and was holding a torch.

At the inquest it was also revealed how Mr. McLaughlin’s wine-coloured Nissan Duke car was found parked 400 metres from the house.

Garda Stephen Canning said he had found two sets of number plates on the deceased’s car, one of which was false. The court heard that underneath were northern number plates which matched the car’s chassis number. Seargeant Maurice McWalter told the court the false plates had been examined for fingerprints with negative results.

The morning after the explosion Mrs. McLaughlin had called into the opticians in Carndonagh to drop off glasses for her husband, where she spoke to his employee Siobhan McKinney, who told her a body had been found in the house.

“I told her not to be so ridiculous, the police would have told me,” said Mrs McLaughlin. “As soon as she mentioned the word body, I could not even see the door.”

Mr McLaughlin’s widow yesterday told Inishowen Coroner’s court that her husband was loving, caring and “lived for his wanes.”

In her deposition at the inquest hearing in Carndonagh, Martina McLaughlin said her husband of 11 years was a hard worker.

She said she felt the need to talk to him, ask him why he was in Malin that night and “tell him how much I love him.”

The Derry mum of three yesterday told the inquest in Carndonagh how on the night of the optician’s death on October 31, 2014, he had dressed as a pirate as he did every year and had gone ‘trick or treating’ with the children.

She said that at night he would go to his lab at their house in Derry to make glasses, but always said good night to the kids.

Mrs. McLaughlin said that on the day of her husband’s death she had not noticed anything different about him.

“I was angry at the argument,” she said. “But I did not expect him not to come home.”

Mrs McLaughlin told the court she had no idea why her husband’s car was parked car away from the house in Malin.

Sergeant Ambrose Bradley said that when he arrived at the scene at Malin Head on Hallowe’en night the roof had been blown off and the walls had collapsed.

“Debris was scattered,” he said, “and there was a strong smell of accelerant.” He said he spoke to the fire service who confirmed that the body of a male had been found. Last rites were administered by Father Peter Devlin.

Sgt Bradley said he called to the home of Jeffrey McLaughlin’s parents the following day. While there they contacted Martina McLaughlin who said Jeff had not been home that night and that his mobile phone was in the house. Mrs McLaughlin told them she was becoming increasingly worried and said she was going to make her way to Malin.

Eunan Doherty, sub station office at Carndonagh revealed how he had been called to an unoccupied house fire at 23.50 hours on October 31.

“There was so much debris it seemed that an explosion may have occurred,” he said. “One part of the fire proved difficult to put out and we had to use foam.”

He revealed that at around 2 a.m. a casualty was found at the rear of the building and at 2.40 a.m. a doctor at the scene pronounced him dead.

A request was then made for back up to carry out an extensive search of the scene.

Firefighter Jonathan Lynch from Buncrana said that when he arrived at the scene all he could see was “total destruction.”

“There was debris everywhere,” he said. “We sealed off the property but nobody was found. We used foam to put a part of the fire out.”

He said the team worked to move the roof from the rubble.

Detective Garda Alan Curry said that after the incident only small portions of the house were still standing.

He added that the structural damage was consistent with an explosion and that three plastic cans which smelled of accelerant had been found, two in the kitchen and one at the back door.”

He said the house sustained very little fire damage but everything in it was broken indicating that an explosion had taken place.

The inquest into Mr. McLaughlin’s death is expected to be completed today.