Irish drug dealer and father of six murdered at holiday camp in UK

Michael McDonagh, a 53-year-old, died in row after going to pub to watch a televised Premier League match

An Irishman has been murdered at a holiday park in the UK after a row broke out when people had gathered in a bar on the site to watch a soccer game on television.

It appears Sligo man Michael McDonagh (53) was pinned down and could be heard complaining he could not breathe before losing consciousness. Paramedics treated him at the scene for over an hour but their efforts to save him were unsuccessful and he was pronounced dead just after midnight on Friday.

The killing occurred at Parkdean Resorts, Camber Sands, Sussex, after a crowd had gathered in a bar to watch the Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal.

While seven people have been arrested on suspicion of his murder, all have been released without charge as the police investigation into the killing continues.


Mr McDonagh had lived in Sligo and southern Spain before settling with his family in the London area. He was previously known for involvement in drug dealing and a house in Co Sligo was seized from him by the Criminal Assets Bureau 22 years ago, at which point he left Ireland.

While he settled in Spain he was investigated by the police there and in 2000, shortly after moving abroad, he was wanted for interview by the Spanish authorities after a gun attack in a pub left two men wounded, though they survived.

Mr McDonagh is believed to have spent most of the last two decades living in the UK, mostly in the London area, and had served a sentence in Britain for drug dealing. He was part of a conspiracy of more than 20 men jailed for importing drugs valued at millions of pounds.

Detective Chief Inspector Emma Vickers of Sussex Police said “a complex and fast-moving investigation is underway to establish precisely what happened and identify those responsible”.

“I understand incidents such as these can have a profound impact on the wider community and I would like to offer my assurances that this was an isolated incident and we are working tirelessly to find out the full circumstances.”

Sussex Police, who appealed for witnesses to come forward, published a tribute to the murdered man from one of his children, who described him as “a loving and supportive husband of 32 years and a father of six”.

The family statement confirmed the McDonaghs were on holidays in Sussex at the time of the murder.

“His family meant everything to him. He came away to make memories with his wife and children and instead we are walking away with broken hearts and unanswered questions,” the family tribute added of Mr McDonagh.

“It’s impossible to put into words how we all feel. Our dad was the centre of our world and the life and soul of every party. Not only did my dad make such a huge impact on our family but also to countless people who knew him throughout his life. He will be greatly missed. Michael was a kind-hearted man who died too young, leaving behind all those that loved him.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times