One of their own: the tragedy of Karen Buckley


Karen Buckley: shock at her killing

It is one of those stories that stops people in their tracks. When the reporter said Karen Buckley’s body had been found, the living room went silent. The news was listened to with shock – for all that it was expected.

Every parent who kisses a child goodbye as they head out for the night, or to a sleepover, or off to college suppresses the thought that they might not come back. It is a fear all parents have to live with, even if it is one that rarely is realised.

But every so often the nightmare becomes reality.

The sympathy for John and Marian Buckley is so intense and so widespread, because every parent knows it could have been them.

Our teenage daughter is still at the stage where she is chaperoned to gigs. This week she asked to go into Glasgow with her friends on Saturday – it’s about 25 miles from where we live. Our evening was devoted to an analysis of the rights and wrongs. The anguished discussion would have made an expert in risk management proud.

It’s during the day. She will be with people. They are sensible. The risk is minimal. But you could say exactly the same things about a 24-year-old going out to a nightclub.

Like Belfast, Glasgow is a young person’s city. There are more than 45,000 university students, and countless more at college. By and large, students work hard, no wonder they love an excuse to party.

Karen was studying for a masters degree. It’s intensive work. If she’d asked – and at 24 she didn’t have to – John and Marian would have said: ‘Go out, enjoy yourself’. They would have suppressed the fear, because we all know that if you allow your life to be determined by fear, it will not be a life at all.

A man is in court tomorrow. In time there will be an opportunity to point the finger of blame and to condemn. Now is the time to mourn.

The Buckleys are in grief, and deserve the space they have asked for. Their grief will be lessened not one jot by the knowledge that it is shared across Ireland, and in Scotland too.

This is a country that values young people, and welcomes those who come here to study; a country which prayed for her safe return; a country that feels her loss intensely.

As far as the Scots are concerned, Karen was one of their own. That is how she will be remembered.

  • This article first appeared in The Irish News on April 17 2015. Karen Buckley was a student from Cork, studying at Glasgow Caledonian University. He body was found on April 16, she had been missing since the weekend. A 21-year-old man Alexander Pacteau has been charged with her murder