Hundreds turn out to pay respects to ‘much loved mother’ Stacey Knell after double murder tragedy

Up to 300 people joined a funeral cortege in east Belfast today for tragic murder victim Stacey Knell, amid a significant police presence.

Friday, 26th March 2021, 1:20 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th March 2021, 8:48 am

Ms Knell’s family had said on social media that they wanted to “give the wee woman the send off she deserves”, and asked anyone gathering outside her mother’s Sydenham home to observe social distancing, which they scrupulously did.

The 30-year-old mother-of-one was reportedly killed by her boyfriend Ken Flanagan, 26, who also allegedly murdered his mother Karen McClean (50) before taking his own life in two seperate attacks in Newtownabbey last Friday night.

The killings - at Derrycoole Way in Rathcoole and in Glenville Road - shocked and stunned the Newtownabbey community.

Grief stricken mourners carry the coffin of Stacey Knell during her funeral in Belfast today. The 30 year old was stabbed to death by her partner, Ken Flanagan in Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim last weekend. Flanagan also murdered his mother, Karen McClean before killing himself. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

A funeral notice described Ms Knell as the “much loved mother of Sophia, devoted daughter of Roberta and Paul, a loving sister, aunt, cousin and friend to many”.

A small family funeral service took place yesterday in her mother’s home at Inverleith Drive.

Outside, one eye witness said there was “a significant police presence”.

She added: “A Land Rover with a camera filmed everything going on with at least half a dozen patrol cars there too.

Stacey Knell, one of three people who died in an apparent murder suicide in Newtownabbey on Friday

“Police cars drove up the street in front of the house before the funeral began. The Land Rover with the camera sat initially at one end of the street and then it came down and parked at the other end. Then there was another police car parked at the other end of the street looking straight up the road as the cortege came out.”

There was also a helicopter overhead but it was not clear whether it was PSNI or not, she added.

“A lot of local people attended but there were obviously a lot of others too, as there were a lot of cars parked up. There must have been 200-300 mourners outside the home although they were observing social distancing well.

“The coffin came out after 11am and had a big floral tribute on the top. As the coffin moved away from the house a song was played all along the street as the cortege moved off.”

There was a strong PSNI presence monitoring the observance of Coronavirus restrictions at the funeral of Stacey Knell in Belfast today. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

In a statement on social media, the family of the 30-year-old mum said they would like to express their “profound gratitude to everyone who has rallied round in this awful week”.

“We will never be able to individually thank everyone enough for what they have done in the last few days, people’s kindness and generosity has been an immense comfort to us all,” they said.

A funeral notice carried the following poem, When Tomorrow Starts Without Me;-

When tomorrow starts without me

Karen McClean was also killed by Ken Flanagan - her own son - on Friday.

And I’m not here to see

If the sun should rise and find your eyes

All filled with tears for me

I wish you wouldn’t cry

The Way you did today

While thinking of the many things

We did not get to say

I know how much you love me

As much as I love you

Each time that you think of me

I know you will miss me too

A fundraising page has been set up by her friends to cover the costs of her funeral.

Her family said any surplus money from a fundraising initiative will be used to support Stacey’s young daughter Sophia.

In a Facebook message posted on behalf of the family on Tuesday morning, a cousin of Stacey thanked everyone for their “overwhelming” generosity as a appeal reached almost £1,400.

The total raised has now reached £2,750.

The family has also paid tribute to the mother-of-one as a “beautiful soul and incredible mum,” and said they are now living “an absolute surreal nightmare”.

The family Facebook message said: “Just like to thank Stacey Knell’s friends for setting this up, the generosity of everyone has been overwhelming. As a family we’ve clubbed together to cover most of her funeral but this will go some way to getting her a really nice headstone and anything that is left over will be going into a fund for her daughter Sophia so for everyone who has made a donation. There’s no words to thank everyone enough so from the family thank you.”

An earlier message on behalf of Stacey’s family said: “Firstly there’s no words that can even begin to express how grateful we all are for the sheer amount of messages, texts, calls and help from everyone connected with our family circle and beyond.

“Its been overwhelming how many people wanted to let the family know they were thinking of us all at a time that can only be classed as an absolute surreal nightmare that nobody should have to go through and you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.

“It’s impossible for us all to reply to everyone’s good wishes but were hoping this message may go some way to show how much we appreciate it all.

“Stacey was a beautiful soul and incredible mum who seen the best in everyone even unfortunately sometimes when there was nothing good to be seen at all. When trying to take in the gravity of the loss you have to realise you aren’t just losing essentially one person, but you’ve been robbed of a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, an aunt, a cousin, a friend and most importantly of all a mother.

“Violence against women and mental health issues are two incredibly important topics which need every bit of support that can come their way, however, in the media over the last few days we have seen so many people in power use this tragedy as a statistic to push their agendas on these subjects to the frustration of the family.

“Stacey is not a political football to be used by anyone she was a very real person to those closest who will be missed sorely.

“This is also NOT an issue on mental health anyone should be pushing but rather one of somebody who has never been any good in their life robbing our family and indeed his own of two women who only ever had his best interests.

“His cowardly acts of that night will never be forgiven.

“To have to see Stacey’s face splashed across the newspapers it’s hard especially on her mum, to think some people outside the family’s initial thoughts when hearing the news was to lift the phone to a newspaper actually defies belief.

“We have no interest in speaking to any media outlet and in fact we are requesting that we be left in peace to bury our wee Stacey with the dignity she deserves.”

Readers can make a donation to the fundraising page for Stacey’s funeral costs and for her daughter by clicking here.

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