‘I still struggle to make sense of it’

Darren McGrellis pictured with Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon and Marie Brown from Foyle Women's Aid.
Darren McGrellis pictured with Baroness Angela Smith of Basildon and Marie Brown from Foyle Women's Aid.

The brother of a Derry woman murdered by her husband in 1997 has spoken of how his life “changed completely” after his sister’s death.

Darren McGrellis spoke emotionally on Friday at the opening of Ashleywood House and Mews, a new domestic abuse family hub run by Foyle Women’s Aid.

He said to this day he “struggles to make sense” of what happened to his sister Caroline Crossan, who was beaten to death by her husband John in the couple’s Clonliffe Park home - and that he will always miss his big sister.

“Caroline was my big sister and she was my friend,” he told the invited guests at the opening of the new facility on Friday. “She was loved - and loved by many,” he said, adding that it has been his belief all along that she had been happily married.

As a young man Darren said he “looked up” to his brother-in-law.

“He was someone I respected and trusted. He was someone I would have gone to for advice. He was someone I liked.”

However he said the events of October 2, 1997, turned his entire life - and what he had believed in - on its head.

“On that day Caroline was attacked in her own home by her husband and she died two days later. My life as I knew it was over. Caroline was gone and nothing made sense. I still struggle to make sense of it now.

“I don’t think there was an emotion I didn’t feel. I felt grief, betrayal, guilt, anger sadness.

“It has been a long road to get to somewhere when I could find some peace and I could not have got here without the the help and support of friends, family, doctors and counsellors and the support of Marie Brown and her team at Women’s Aid.”

Stating that Women’s Aid had been a great support to him and his family throughout the years which have followed Caroline’s death, he praised their “ourstanding work”, adding: “If some good can come out of her death then that is a comfort to me.”

Ashleywood House and Mews marks phase one of a pioneering plan by Women’s Aid in Derry to create a one-stop-haven for women and children escaping situations of domestic abuse.

The centre provides 12 modern, temporary housing units to offer safe and secure accommodation for women and children.

For more information visit www.foylewomensaid.org