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Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Beheaded 'Nigerian' woman laid to rest
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Beheaded 'Nigerian' woman laid to rest

- Jennifer Long

Memories of a “lovely girl” who had touched the hearts of many were recalled at the funeral of murder victim Paiche Onyemaechi, who was laid to rest on Friday afternoon. Exactly a week after her body was discovered in Piltown, South Kilkenny, family members of the tragic 25- year-old were joined by friends within the African community in Waterford in saying their last goodbyes to the attractive and friendly mother of two. As the sun shone down on the hearse bearing her coffin, distraught family members, led by her father and Malawi Chief Justice Leonard Unyolo, filed into St. Patrick’s United Methodist and Presbyterian Church for the funeral service shortly after 2pm on Friday. Beside him were his son Leon, daughter Lucy and daughter-in-law Thoko who had flown in the previous night from Malawi, and who carried into the church Paiche’s two young sons, Anthony and Andrew, aged three and 18 months. A notable absentee was Paiche’s Nigerian husband Chika (31) who it has been confirmed is missing since Thursday and for whom concern is now mounting.

During the ceremony, a plea was made from the altar for information on his whereabouts while at the same time members of the African community were urged not to engage in spreading rumours and let gardaí get on with their work. Up to 150 people, including a strong gathering from Piltown, turned up at the service which was co-celebrated by Rev. Dr. John Parkin; Fr. Patrick O’Mahoney, Malawian Honorary Consul, and Piltown Parish Priest Fr. Paschal Moore, who was the first to pray by Paiche’s body when it was discovered. As her family members took their seats next to their loved one’s coffin, Rev. Dr. Parkin expressed his sympathies to them and said the purpose of the ceremony now was to give dignity to one who was denied it in death. “Evil has been done,” he said,” and now many questions are remaining including what is the meaning and purpose of what has happened.” Describing her death as an “outrage”, Rev. Dr. Parkin said he was not going to talk much about Paiche as he did not know her very well. However, his one memory of her was at a wedding of two friends a year ago. They had no venue for a reception and Paiche had come forward and provided her own house, putting herself out for a couple in need. He said that while everyone was affected by what had happened, he wanted to plead with the members of the African community in Waterford not to indulge in the spreading of rumours.

“Leave the investigation to the police,” he said, “who will leave no stone unturned. So far, they have conducted themselves with extreme sensitivity and I’ve every confidence that justice will be done.” Sadly, he said, Paiche’s husband Chika’s whereabouts were unknown and he would urge anyone with information either to contact the gardai or himself and he’d pass the message on. Very Fr. Paschal Moore, PP, Piltown, made a moving speech about the effect of the tragic event on his village. He told Paiche’s family that the parish was a quiet, rural and picturesque area with a very close-knit community. When the body was discovered the previous Friday, it had shocked and saddened not only the two women who came upon it, but the whole community who were now “devastated”. “It was like an outrage against God and humanity; we were speechless and, indeed, Piltown is still reeling,” he said. “When the body was discovered and afterwards when the weekend services were taking place, it was unidentified so we in the community adopted Paiche and made her one of our own.

“Now you, her family, have come to Ireland and today we embrace you too. I want you to know that when you return to Malawi, the people of Piltown will be praying for you and Paiche every day, ” he added. Following a brief extension of sympathies from Malawian Honorary Consul Fr. Patrick O’Mahoney who said Paiche had now gone to a better place, the deceased’s brother Leon spoke of his “lovely sister” who was also a great friend. She had touched the hearts of many, he said, through her compassion and kindness and he now asked for “courage and consolation” for her heartbroken family. Following the service, which was a mixture of hymns and readings including by Thoko Unyolo, a sister-in-law of the deceased, the coffin was escorted from the church by the woman’s grieving family and attending clergy. Bringing traffic on Patrick St. to a momentary standstill, the cortége made its way through the centre of the city and onto St. Otteran’s Cemetery, John’s Hill, where burial took place.

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