Heartbroken dad and brothers carry Karen on her final journey
KAREN Buckley's heartbroken brothers and father together shouldered her coffin on her final journey back home.
The Buckley brothers were a tower of strength for their parents at the heartbreaking removal service for only daughter Karen (24) last night.
The north Cork town of Mallow came to a standstill as enormous crowds gathered to pay tribute to the beautiful nurse who disappeared from a Glasgow nightclub earlier this month.
Mourners had travelled from Scotland to show their support for the Buckley family who have endured, as Mourneabbey parish priest Fr Joe O'Keeffe admitted, "every parent's worst nightmare".
The removal was one of the biggest ever held in Mallow and was marked by guards of honour from Karen's former classmates in her nursing degree at University of Limerick (UL) as well as from St Mary's secondary school.
Karen, who was studying a masters in occupational therapy, was found dead on an isolated Glasgow hill farm on April 15, three days after a massive search operation was launched. Courier firm operator Alexander Pacteau (21) is charged with her murder.
Queues formed in Mallow from 3pm for the removal at O'Connell's funeral home and doors were opened to mourners one hour early.
Karen's remains were brought to the funeral home yesterday morning after a special rosary and prayer vigil on Sunday night at the family's home outside Mourneabbey-Analeentha.
Mourners outside the funeral home
Karen's body had been flown back to Cork from Glasgow on a special Aer Lingus flight. The funeral home overlooks Mallow Park where Karen had enjoyed so many riverside walks.
The coffin was flanked by her parents, John (62) and Marian (61), and her brothers, Brendan (32), Kieran (28) and Damien (27). Relatives carried a simple vase of white roses in honour of their beloved Karen.
Mourners filed past a collection of photos in the hallway of the funeral home, including her Holy Communion and UL graduation portraits.
Among those in the long queues of mourners were staff members from The Hibernian Hotel where Karen worked as a waitress in her teens. A photo of Karen, fronted by a single lit candle, now rests on the hotel's reception desk.
Karen Buckley's mother Marian (centre) is consoled
Also present were past pupils and staff of St Mary' secondary school where Karen studied in Mallow until her Leaving Cert in 2009. Friends and colleagues from the School of Nursing in UL wore their white uniforms as a mark of respect for the tragic nurse.
Among the dignitaries were Minister Sean Sherlock, former Fine Gael TD and Mourneabbey resident Paul Bradford, Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher TD and Councillor John Paul O'Shea.
Such were the crowds that the removal had to be delayed for 15 minutes.
Emotional scenes later marked the final removal of the coffin from the funeral home on St James Avenue for Karen's short, final journey back to her native Analeentha.
It was followed by family members drawn from all over Cork and from Galbally in Limerick where her mother is from.
The enormous number of mourners in Analeentha, estimated at well over 700, had forced gardai to implement a special one-way traffic system.
Supt Pat McCarthy said a special park-and-ride system will also be in place from Mallow GAA Club today with shuttles in operation.
Gardai were assisted by volunteers from Clyda Rovers GAA Club and Mourneabbey Ladies FC.
Local farmers, close friends of dairy farmer John Buckley, provided fields for use as temporary car parks.
Karen's requiem mass will be celebrated at the Church of St Michael the Archangel at 2pm today. The Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean, has extended a special message of support to the family.
Analeentha National School, located beside the church, will be closed as a mark of respect to the Buckley family.
Flags outside the school were flown at half-mast. Karen attended the school until 2003 when she went to St Mary's in Mallow.
Following requiem mass, Karen will be buried in St John's Cemetery in Burnfort.