Thomas O’Halloran’s daughter prepared a meal for her father last Tuesday – but when he failed to return to their west London home, she began to worry. She kept calling his cell phone. It rang.
he knew something was wrong – he was never home late.
She was right. Just before 4pm the 87-year-old busker, originally from Ennistymon, Co Clare, was stabbed in the chest while driving his mobility scooter in Cayton Road, Greenford. He died at the scene.
That plate of sausage, fries, and beans that Mr. O’Halloran never got to eat is still in the microwave in her kitchen. His sticky notes with lyrics to some of his favorite songs, mostly Irish, are piled high up in his backyard workshop just as he left it. Now the house is eerily quiet.
“I don’t really know how I feel. I’m in shock at the moment. We still expect him to come through the front door,” said his daughter Jeanne O’Halloran.
“I just can’t believe it.”
In her first interview since the murder, Ms O’Halloran said so Sunday independent about the last conversation she had with her “wonderful father” and the moment she was told he was dead.
“I still remember him walking out the door that day, I can see his face. I still have the food I made for him – I can’t take it out of the microwave. I can’t go in the garden because he used to sit where he played his music.”
She said her father “always called” her on the way home from the busking and she always had his food ready. But when 4 p.m. came, he was nowhere to be seen.
“We were getting worried. We thought maybe he was outside talking to someone. We tried ringing and ringing his phone. We were worried.”
Then the police were at the door.
“When two police officers want to come in and ask you to sit down, you know something is wrong. They told me he was stabbed on his way home ten minutes from where we lived and dead.”
She said she was “in shock and felt numb” and “didn’t really understand what was going on.”
“He was 87, you might expect someone to die at that age, but not like this. He had nothing wrong with him, that’s the terrible thing about it. He never drank or smoked and was a tough old man.”
She admitted she ‘didn’t get along very well’ – and as we sat and talked a news report came on the TV announcing that Lee Byer, 44, from Southall, West London, was being charged with the murder of her father court appeared.
“It’s on the news now,” she said, looking at the TV. “I get angry when I see that. I love watching videos of him alive, happy and smiling. Every time I see his face on the news I get upset. I can’t avoid it.”
After tea that evening, Mr O’Halloran played his accordion for this family. He enjoyed wrestling and watching old movies and had a “normal family life,” his daughter said.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always stuck together.”
Videos of her father playing outside Greenford train station and the local Tesco, where he was on the day he died, were shared widely on social media.
“I want to have the memories of how he played his music,” Ms. O’Halloran said. “I go on my Facebook and there are videos of him playing his accordion – and to me he’s still alive. That may sound silly, but that’s how I feel.”
We told her he went back to Ireland. We don’t want to have this conversation with her
One of 14 children born in a thatched cottage on the outskirts of Ennistymon, Mr O’Halloran left Co Clare over 70 years ago to pursue a career in engineering. Three of his siblings, George, Dickie and Brigid, live and live in Ireland.
“He meant a lot to be Irish,” said Mrs. O’Halloran. “He hasn’t been home for a long time because he was retired and didn’t have much money. But he always wanted to come back.”
Two of her sons are going to identify her grandfather’s body tomorrow because she can’t come to terms with it.
“We can’t have the body, we can’t bury him for at least a month or six weeks. I haven’t even seen him yet.
“I can not go. I want to remember him as he was.”
Greenford resident Michelle Connors saw Mr O’Halloran busking outside Tesco just hours before he died after visiting the store with her two-year-old daughter Quinn.
The retiree sat on his scooter with a safety vest attached to the back that read “Starship Enterprise.”
“He always parked to the right of the front door. Even if you walked in, you could still hear his music.
“There’s a cafe on the left, if you were sitting having coffee you could still be listening.
“My daughter adored him and was always asking for pennies on ‘The Music Man.’ That’s what we called him,” she told the Sunday independent.
She always gave Quinn the money to give to him and he would play songs like Molly Malone.
“She would have a little dance; he would say thank you, she would say thank you; he would say goodbye, she would say goodbye.
“It was such an innocent interaction and it meant so much to her.”
I want to have the memories of how he played his music
Ms Connors, who has three other children, Alannis, 16, Elsie, 14, and Willow, 11, was shocked to find out “Mr Tom” had been killed when she posted a photo of his abandoned mobility scooter from the scene an looked at Facebook when the news broke.
“We were in tears, all of us. We looked at the photos and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is The Music Man.’ I think it was worse because we were with him earlier in the day.
“He had a cheeky twinkle in his eye, he was funny. He was part of the community and it feels like he was stolen from us.”
She recorded one of the videos of Mr. O’Halloran busking on screen for her youngest daughter.
“We told her he’d returned to Ireland. We haven’t been to Tesco since because I don’t want to have that conversation with her.
“When I think of him now, I see his twinkling eyes and my little one putting the money in the box and he’s playing a song.”
For the past few months, Mr O’Halloran has been collecting for the Ukrainian community – and last Friday his fellow volunteer Ela Suzin left flowers at the spot where he used to busk.
“I drove by his house and didn’t have the heart to knock on the door and leave the flowers. I decided to leave them here today on behalf of the Ukrainian community,” she said.
“The last time I saw him he was sitting on his little scooter. I asked him if he wanted me to print and laminate a Ukrainian sign and he said “yes please”. He asked me to get a Ukrainian flag. Of course I said I would, but it was too late,” she said, breaking down.
Andy Nolan, an Irish singer and producer who has worked with Pogues singer Shane McGowan and Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, said Mr O’Halloran “embodied all the good things about the Irish here in London”.
He had a cheeky twinkle in his eye, he was funny and it feels like he was stolen from us
“He has always cared about others and done the simple acts that have made a huge difference to those less fortunate.
His band The Bible Code Sundays met him many times playing his accordion in front of Tesco.
“He always had a beautiful smile on his face as he belted out all the Irish songs to raise money for the people of Ukraine. Rest in peace Tom, you were a mighty good boxer.”
Back in west London, Mrs O’Halloran knows the coming days and months will be difficult as she mourns the loss of her father. But how will she remember the man who “made the world to her”?
“He was my hero and now my life is empty without him. I loved my father more than anyone.
“He was my world. Life will never be the same again,” she said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/my-life-is-empty-without-him-a-daughters-exclusive-interview-after-senseless-killing-of-oap-thomas-ohalloran-41925876.html ‘My Life Is Empty Without Him’: A Daughter’s Exclusive Interview After the Senseless Murder of OAP Thomas O’Halloran