Village comes to standstill as Wexford girl found dead in Tokyo laid to rest
THE SEASIDE village of Curracloe in Co Wexford was a community united in grief yesterday as the funeral took place of Dublin City University student Nicola Furlong, who was found dead in a Tokyo hotel room 10 days ago.
Ms Furlong (21) was buried in a pink coffin amid heartbreaking scenes in Curracloe Cemetery after funeral Mass in St Margaret’s Church where she was baptised.
The village came to a standstill as more than 1,000 people gathered on a cold and wet afternoon for the Mass celebrated by local priest Fr James Fitzpatrick, assisted by DCU chaplain Fr Joe Jones and priests from surrounding parishes.
Mourners wept as the cortege entered the church grounds after making its journey through the village from the Furlong family home a short distance away. Ms Furlong’s father, Andrew, and her uncles were among the pallbearers. Her mother, Angie, and her sisters Andrea (18) and Hannah (12) followed behind.
The pink coffin with gold handles was a poignant reminder to mourners of the youthfulness and glamour of a “girly girl”, in the words of her mother, who loved fashion and make-up.
Her family and friends also wore pink instead of traditional black as Ms Furlong disliked the tradition of people wearing sombre colours at funerals. Cerise pink ribbons were distributed among the mourners, to place in their lapels.
Ms Furlong’s friend, a fellow DCU exchange student from Wexford, who was with her in Tokyo on the night she died, attended the funeral. She returned to Ireland from Japan last Friday, accompanied by her mother who flew to Tokyo the day after the tragedy to comfort her daughter.
Police investigating Ms Furlong’s death gave her permission to come back to Ireland for the funeral but she is due to return to Japan as she is a key witness in the case.
Two American men, 23-year-old dancer James Blackston and an unnamed 19-year-old musician are still in custody as Japanese police continue to investigate Ms Furlong’s death in the five-star Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo on May 24th, a few hours after she and her friend attended a concert by the US rapper Nicki Minaj.
In his homily, Fr Fitzpatrick said everyone was “saddened and perturbed by the way Nicola was taken from us”.
“We are looking for answers but there are no answers and we are filled with regret and sadness. There is no answer to why we are experiencing this pain: why this family, why now, why in these circumstances.”
Fr Fitzpatrick said Nicola’s life was “tragically and violently cut short. She was bright, energetic and charismatic and had so much to offer in this life. We grieve for what has been and all that could have been,” he said.
Ms Furlong’s sister Andrea, in an emotional tribute, said she was blessed to have her as a sister and a best friend. “You were my one in this world. From the day I was born you filled my life with love.
“Nobody will ever be able to replace the piece of my heart that Nicola took with her to heaven. My jigsaw will never be complete.”
The funeral was attended by a large gathering of young people including Ms Furlong’s college and school friends, the president of DCU and other staff members.