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A poster featuring the faces of all 48 victims hangs on the wall of the Rotunda Hospital where the Stardust Inquest is taking place. Sasko Lazarov
Stardust Inquiry

'Insult to injury' of being told what Stardust victim's life was worth, brother tells inquest

The brother of another Stardust victim who remained unidentified for over 25 years also spoke today of how ‘surreal’ it was to finally bury him in 2007.

THE GRIEF OF losing a loved one in the Stardust fire was “unbearable”, while being told what that person’s life was worth added “insult to injury”, a brother of one of the victims has told the Coroner’s Court.

John Lewis, whose sister Paula was one of 48 people killed in the blaze that swept through the Stardust nightclub in the early hours of February 14, 1981, delivered a pen portrait of Paula today.

He told the inquest in Dublin’s Coroner’s Court that their family would never have closure even four decades after her death.

“To say that the death of Paula was devastating is an understatement. The grief that was visited on our family was horrendous,” John told the jury in the Pillar Room of the Rotunda Hospital.

“Paula went for a night out and never came home. We were left watching my mum and dad wondering if she was crying for them in her final moments.”

“Her friend Sandra Lawless was in the Stardust that night and also perished. The only hope we have is that they were a comfort to each other when the end came,” said John.

“The wait to identify Paula’s body, the funeral, the crying, the grief, was unbearable, but it had to be lived through. Then, to add insult to injury, for so-called experts to tell us what our Paula was worth, and what we should do to avoid getting involved in a legal system that most of us would not have had access to anyway because we were working class people.”

He said that the loss of Paula is still felt at every family event, and to try to explain as the family members get older how much they lost is impossible.

‘Forever 17′

The brother of one of seven victims of the Stardust fire who remained unidentified for over 25 years also spoke today of how “surreal” it was to finally bury him in 2007, as by that point the remaining siblings were in their 40s, but their brother was “forever 17”.

The inquest heard a pen portrait of Paul Wade, which was written by his brother Tony Wade and read out by Tony’s son Emmet.

Tony was with Paul in the Stardust when the fire broke out.

The brothers were on a double date with two girls from Derry, and Paul had just started going out with Susan Morgan (19), another victim of the fire.

“When the fire started, or at least when I became aware of it, there was a slow set on and I was dancing on the floor. That’s probably the reason I got out because we were near the exit doors,” said Tony.

He said that as Paul had perfect teeth and no tattoos, he ended up being one of seven unidentified victims.

“From the time of the Stardust, we spent every second day going to funerals. If you didn’t know all of them, you knew a good few. Not being allowed to have a headstone for seven years upset my mother big time. We had to wait until he was classified as deceased,” he said.

Tony explained that Paul was finally identified in 2007 and this allowed the family to have a proper funeral for him.

“We were all out at the graveyard when he was reinterred. It was a bit surreal as we were standing there all in our 40s, but he is forever 17. Our mother and father were dead by that stage,” he said.

“It had an awful effect on our parents. My mother was a very religious woman who would go to mass every day, but she just went completely downhill after Paul died, it hit her so hard.”

He said that his mother lost the will to put up any fight against the cancer she was afflicted with, and she stopped going to mass as she lost her faith.

“It’s very wrong when a child dies before the parent. My dad was gutted as well, he tried to get answers. He went to his grave cursing what happened,” said Tony.

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