ON Saturday evening, family and friends of the late Concepta Leonard gathered at St Mary’s Church in Brookeborough to mark one year since her horrific murder.
On May 15th last year, 51-year-old Connie, as she was known locally, was killed by her former partner Peadar Phair at her home on Abbey Road, Maguiresbridge.
Her only son Conor (31) raised the alarm despite having also been seriously injured in the devastating attack.
Since then a new scheme allowing people to find out if their partner has a history of domestic violence has come into force. The Domestic Violence and Abuse Disclosure Scheme (DVADS) is modelled on ‘Clare’s Law’, introduced in England and Wales in 2014 after Clare Wood (36) was strangled and set on fire by her ex-boyfriend George Appleton in 2009 in Manchester.
At the time of its launch in March, Connie’s brother Fergal welcomed the move but said it had come “too late” for his sister.
Fermanagh Women’s Aid have said this week that while the tragic events of last year have left their mark on the community and other victims of domestic violence, it has encouraged more women in the area to speak out about abuse.
Kerri Flood from Fermanagh Women’s Aid (FWA) told the Herald: “Over the course of a year, we have had 20 more women accessing our services and each of them has received more intense support. In our refuge, we have had to turn away more women and children because the accommodation just isn’t there.
“In the immediate aftermath of Connie’s death, we had a huge increase in calls from women who either identified with her situation or wanted extra reassurance that it was still worth pursuing with criminal proceedings.”
Kerri has also been moved by the local response to Connie’s death: “Communities in Fermanagh have really come together and we have had more people accessing our domestic violence training than ever before and others fundraising for us in amazing ways. In the middle of all this awfulness, it can be easy to forget the good things that people are doing and that has been really moving.”
Yesterday (Tuesday), a service of thanksgiving was held and a tree planted in the grounds of Jones Memorial Primary School in Enniskillen in Connie’s memory by her father Dinny. Connie worked there as a school meals cook up until her death and principal Sandra Isherwood told the Herald: “Connie is very much missed within our school community. She was a devoted and very loving member of staff.”
Posted: 6:57 pm May 16, 2018