ON the morning of November 22, 2007, Alan Hannan left his home in the sprawling Limerick City estate in Southhill to walk to work on a local community enterprise scheme.
He left the house a little earlier than usual because his 19-year old son Jeffrey, who had been out at a bonfire the previous night, hadn’t returned home.
Unknown to Alan, Jeffrey lay dead a few yards away as he walked past the ash circle of disintegrated embers still smoking from the previous night’s bonfire.
A few hours earlier, Jeffrey, who had no criminals links, had been savagely attacked.
The doting father to his one year old daughter Nikita, and who was looking forward to the birth of his second daughter Tianna, had been hit across the head a number of times with an axe handle.
He was also savagely kicked before being dragged across a green and dumped by a wall, just a few yards from his family home.
His heartbroken father stares into the distance as he recalls that tragic morning, twelve years ago this Friday.
“He wasn’t in bed, so I got up that morning and went out looking for him. I actually passed his body in the green area where he was found. Jeffrey’s body was dumped about fifty yards from our house,” Alan tells the Limerick Post.
“I don’t think it happened to him where he was found, because there was a trail of blood going over the green area from the path. You could see the drag mark on the ground, so he wasn’t killed at the spot where he was found.”
Alan walked on to work, only to return to the estate after a sense of dread, “that something felt wrong” overwhelmed him.
He identified Jeffrey’s body as it lay on the green after a Garda arrived on the scene.
“I just went numb, I went into shock, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. I can’t describe it. It’s like your heart is torn out and part of you is dead too.”
Many in Southill know who killed Jeffrey Hannan, but, perhaps mainly out of fear, they have yet to come forward with the information that would solve the case.
In 2014, despite one potentially key witness providing Gardaí with information – which specifically led to the re-arrest and questioning of six people – no one has been charged with Jeffrey’s murder.
Yet Alan Hannan remains hopeful that fresh information may have come to light recently, after Gardaí undertook a complete review of the investigation last July.
As that investigation continues, the nature of Jeffrey’s death continues to haunt his loved ones.
“It doesn’t leave me, from the time I close my eyes at night to the time I get up in the morning, it is always there,” Alan says.
On the morning of the murder, local sources told him who had killed his son but it was six weeks before the initial arrests were made in the case.
More than 20 people have been questioned, yet no one has been charged.
Knowing who murdered his son is “like living in a hell”, Alan declares.
“I see them probably twice a week. They pass the family and they pass Jeffrey’s daughter Nikita. It’s hard for me to pass them, but you can imagine how hard it is for Nikita. She knows they killed her father, and they’re still walking the streets after12 years. This person should be locked up.”
The impact on the entire family has been devastating, including Alan’s wife Geraldine and their children Emily, Alan Jnr and Jeffrey’s children Nikita and Tianna.
“We have lots of what ifs – ‘what if’ we didn’t let him out that night, or ‘what if’ the wife called him in when she saw him at 1.45am that morning”.
“Geraldine saw him, she looked out the bathroom window, and he was there at the bonfire with a couple of other people, and he was laughing and joking. She was going to call him in, but she decided not to. That’s eating her away. She asks herself, ‘Why didn’t I call him in that night’. I told her she can’t think like that, or it will drive her mad.”
A faint smile cuts through the pain etched across his face, as he recalls Jeffrey’s birth.
“The day he was born, well, he was my first born son. I had a daughter, but your first born son is keeping the family name going. As he was growing up he was never in trouble, never did anything wrong.”
“He had his whole future ahead of him, he was only 19. He was always smiling, he had a heart of gold, he’d do anything for you.”
Tianna (now aged 11) was born after he was killed, but Jeffrey got a chance to develop a close bond with his daughter Nikita.
His 13-year old pride and joy is as committed as her grandfather is in getting “justice”.
Alan says Nikita “gave Jeffrey the drive to do something with his life and he had applied to do a barman’s course”.
“He was a great father, he loved Nikita, she was his life. He only had her for a year, but you could see the bond that was there between them.”
Father and son also shared a close bond, through their shared love of Limerick hurling and soccer rivalry as fans of Manchester United (Jeffrey) and Leeds (Alan): “He went to all the hurling matches with me. He was never in bad humour. He was going to do a barman’s course. I still have the application form he filled in,”
“The last words Jeffrey’s said to me that night, were, ‘I know you’re going to get old, and I’ll look after you’, that’s exactly what he said to me, those were his last words,” he says, becoming emotional.
He delivers a simple message to his son’s killer: “You know the door is closing on you, and it’s time now to come forward and give yourself up. It’s only a matter of time. It is pointless dragging it out because you are going to be caught.”
His fresh call for information is also simply put: “It’s twelve years, it’s time to put it to bed.”
Despite the agony of the last 12 years, Alan is committed to the “promise I made to Jeffrey at his funeral that I would not rest until I got him justice”.
“As long as I’m alive I will keep going until I get justice. I’m letting people know I’m not going away, I’m not going to forget about this. I’m not going to give up, no matter what.”