The Irish pensioner who was stabbed to death in London has been described as a generous and kind man by those who knew him.
Thomas O’Halloran (87), originally from Ennistymon, Co Clare but living in London for more than 70 years, was attacked while riding his mobility scooter in west London on Tuesday afternoon.
His death has been described by the Metropolitan Police as a “shocking act of unprovoked violence”. A 44-year-old man from Southall, west London has been arrested in connection with the stabbing and is now in police custody.
Eyewitnesses said neighbours had to break down the suspect’s door with a battering ram and the man was led away after a struggle.
It is the latest in a remarkable turn of events that has shocked and saddened those who came to know Mr O’Halloran.
Kieran McKenna’s video made last June of the late Clare man playing `Boulavogue’ on his accordion has gone viral on social media since the death.
“I had seen him before outside Tesco (at Perivale, locally) which is only about five or 10 minutes from where he was killed,” he said. “The first time I was wearing an Irish football jersey and he nodded at me the way Irish people do when they recognise one another, and I got talking to him.”
Mr McKenna, a Londoner with a Kerry father and Limerick mother, has been a member of the London Irish rock group The Reels for the past 17 years. They talked about Irish music.
He found it “very strange to see a man of his age busking and playing Irish music. He was raising money for Ukraine. We discussed many things, how he was 86 (then), from Ennistymon in Co Clare and had been in the UK for 70 years. He said he loved Irish music and played the mouth organ as well as the accordion. It was such a hot day too.”
Martin Jones, had also met Mr O’Halloran a number of times and laid flowers on Thursday at the spot where he had been killed. “I knew Tom. He was a lovely bloke, he was my friend. I come down today… with flowers, it’s just shocking,” he said.
They met when Mr O’Halloran was busking outside Tesco in Perivale also. “There were groups threatening him there and I told him that if he needed any help he should contact me. This generation is different.
“You’d see him on his mobility scooter going around Greenford. Two weeks ago he had a big sign up next to his trolley saying it was his 87th birthday. He had boxes, many of them, in the trolley collecting for Ukraine,” he said.
Jen Lock said Mr O’Halloran was “quite a character around Greenford for quite a while. Most people would recognise him. He was quite popular for what he had done (for charity).”
She is a leading anti-knife campaigner and set up the Lives Instead of Knives England group five years ago when a young man of 26 was stabbed to death there. “He was murdered on his doorstep. It was such a horrific thing and the effect it had on everybody. It was an unprovoked attack. His assailants were caught but I said we have to do something, and I did. There have been many more (stabbings in the area) since. Mostly gangs.”
Former Labour MP Stephen Pound, whose mother is from Co Cork, was also among those to pay tribute to Mr O’Halloran, describing him as “a real local character” and a “sweet, lovely man”.
There is a lingering sense of disbelief and horror too in the north Clare town of Ennistymon concerning the circumstances around the murder of the 87-year-old town native.
Close relatives — two of Thomas’s brothers, George and Dickie are among those who continue to live in the area — have sought privacy as they take in the news Senator Martin Conway (FG) said on Thursday that locals “are still processing the detail and can’t quite believe what has happened”.
“People are keen to provide support to the wide O’Halloran family in any way they can — a family that is well known, well regarded and has a lot of links to the Ennistymon community for many generations,” he said.
Mr O’Halloran emigrated to London in his teenage years and Thomas maintained contact with Ennistymon by returning home each year up until about a decade ago when it became difficult for him to continue doing so.
“Thomas visited quite a lot and many people would have known him from his visits here as most people would not have known him from his time before he emigrated,” Senator Conway added.