It's been just over a year since I began talking to people for this podcast, when it began, I was really nervous. I felt really vulnerable opening up to people talking about such a sensitive topic and something that brought up so many difficult feelings for me. Listeners of the show will know that I felt angry, I felt sad. I've laughed and I've cried a lot. And though we've talked at length about grief being a messy personal journey with no linear path, I think the last year and two seasons of open and honest conversations have helped me arrive at a different place.
I still miss my mom every single day, but I recognize my grief more. I know how to handle it a little bit better. This season on Debt Becomes Him. I talk to people who have experienced unimaginable loss.
Each of their stories is unique, but as always, there was one commonality. Talking about it is therapy. This week I speak to John McCreevy. In 2011, John suffered the loss of his new wife, Mikaela, on honeymoon when she was attacked and murdered by two intruders. The story of what happened was plastered on newspapers all over the world, and John found himself at the center of an investigation and his grief on public display.
He opens up to me today about the trauma of the incident and how he rebuilt his life and why he will never use the term.
Moving on. John, how are you? Welcome to the first episode of Season three of Death Becomes in Trial.
Thank you and thank you for the invitation. You know, I haven't really spoken publicly about my grief and not many Saudis in the past 10 years. From time to time, I have sort of visited certain groups that have asked me and I've shared some of my thoughts.
But whenever you extended the invitation, I was very I was very glad to receive that back 10 years ago, whenever I was experiencing all these feelings at the beginning, there was nothing like this. There was like, I guess 10 years ago a podcast was something maybe that no one had heard of it, first and foremost.
But the very fact that you're doing this here and normalizing these conversations is really, really important. And I would have loved a resource like this, try to sort of convey my own thoughts whilst I was doing that. So really, really massive congratulations for doing something like this. It's really, really important. And that's why I would choose to sort of share my own sort of story, my own sort of thought, because you never know the impact that your words have on other people.
And I think it's really important that people do that.
Well, thank you so much for agreeing to to the podcast. We talked about every aspect of death, of grief, of loss. We've never covered grief, a loss through murder before. And your name had come up on an Instagram post. I put up about guests people would like to see on the future season of the show in season three. And I had obviously seen your name and I said, oh, my goodness, of course, we all remember this tragedy because it was all over the world.
It was absolutely everywhere. And that beautiful picture of you and Mikael. And she was in our white wedding dress. You almost looked so perfect together. And then when I met you, I met you on the 8th of January. And then I think I missed you. And even you got back to me on the 9th of January. I was unaware that the following day on the 10th of January, it was going to be Mikaela's 10th anniversary.
Yeah, yeah. It's crazy. And you made the point that it was almost like a world wide story, I think, because it was so tragic. That's what caught people's attention, the fact that we were only ma and married a number of days before.
And, you know, at a time when you should be in the most perfect bliss of your life during your honeymoon for for something so tragic to happen, it's almost incomprehensible to people. And yeah, I guess that's why I probably traveled as a as a news story so far. And people just genuinely felt so, so sorry for for me and for our families. Whenever I received an invitation, I did. Thank God. You know, maybe it's time for me to sort of talk a little more publicly about my grief and about the personal feelings, because I have spoken quite a lot about obviously everything that subsequently happened in marriage is the whole trial process, the fact that we're still here today, ten years time, the I was with justice not being delivered, but and that is really sort of become a big objective in my life.
So I've spoken quite a lot about that, but not about how I, I and I as a person.
I also think that when I message to you, I think we're meant to have this conversation. I think the fact that I messaged you on that date people could think is is random. I don't think it is random. I I fully believe it's happened to me before when I've message other people for other episodes. The date that I booked in be the person they lost to be their birthday or the date, that would mean something to them. You just said something there on the start of the conversation how you wish there had been this podcast or something like this ten years ago.
What do you think? If, if, if there was that and say you you and I had this conversation ten years ago, do you think if you were to listen to who you were ten years ago, how you'd feel today would much have changed, do you think, John, in your grief from ten years ago?
Yeah, I mean, absolutely funny. Whenever I was collecting my thoughts about our conversation here today, I did think that, you know and I know I've listened to.
To a couple of your previous episodes on this podcast, I'm going to ask different guests about, you know, what would you say to someone who is starting that journey and right at the beginning and there is literally nothing that can prepare you for grief.
Like people can start to listen to this now and they can read books. But you you have to level you have delivered. You have to feel it. You have to own it. So maybe Saturday night at the very beginning of this journey, if that's what you want to call it, I am where I am today and would be two completely different conversations. And there is often, unfortunately, you can do to prepare for it. It's not like any other area of your life when you know something is going to happen and you can read up on it.
It's for me and my opinion, you just can't do that. So you really have to go through it, come out the other side, and then you will have the benefit of understanding all those feelings that you experience than ways that at a certain time.
And so, yeah, I think it would just be a completely different conversation.
I think what you've said there, I think is correct. And I think that's exactly what I try and do with my grief, with the loss of our mom is try and manage it in a way that is beneficial to me and to my family. And a word you use there that I can definitely agree with is a journey. But I think it's a journey that us individually are going to be on for life because you're going to carry that sadness and that loss and grief with you.
But it's how you manage it in a positive way.
Yeah, most definitely.
I would really agree with that and. You know, something that you will have heard and, you know, ever since your mom died on what I've heard and anybody that experience this really does this concept or notion of moving on in life and always really pull the life out of me. Whenever someone say that you never move on.
Because I always understood that as simply I've experienced this. Now I know I'm going to move on from that, almost like, you know, I was in University X amount of years ago and that I moved on from that part of my life. So for me, it was always about moving forward with this being a part of my life now and that and not sort of thinking I'm not understanding allowed me to deal with and trying to actually move forward in life and have a place for for this grief in my life.
And it didn't and it didn't sort of give me the guilt that if I was trying to move forward in life, trying to have a life and after the death of killer, that I wasn't simply putting that into a box and storing it away. So that was a very important thing for me, that it'll always be there. It's part of who you know, because, you know, I have I have grown as a person so much, having had these experiences in my life.
Yes, they have been awful, but I've grew from them. So you have to honor them. You have to look at them and said, you know, there were also experiences, but you asked about being positive. How do you do that going forward? And it's about honoring those experiences and taking them forward, owning them. And so that is how I observe this this whole process, this whole journey.
I guess it allows me to live a life in a normal way. And even though I've experienced awful, awful things, I like what you said, that you're not moving on, you're moving forward.
And it's just the simple. You swap out the word on and put in the word forward. And it sounds more inclusive that Mikhaila move forward with you.
Whereas if you say you're moving on, it's like all I'm done with that. I'm done with that person. I'm moving on with my life. It's a much happier phrase. It's more it's more positive. It is.
And I think I think the key the key dynamic of that change of free expression is around control.
And it's a real control and the the the things in your life that impact us. So and another example of that is, given the nature of the awful way that I had to today, you know, I had huge problems that I would always have these visions of what happened to come to me every day, every day for a long, long time.
And I wanted to know how to handle that. And so instead of just blocking out that those visions come in, I think they could come like the most random times. It wouldn't have to be something that triggered it. I could simply be involved in a task.
And then all of a sudden this would come into my mind. So instead of just like trying to block them out after a while because it actually was numb after a while, I just said, you know what, I'm actually going to think about this for a while. That's come into my mind. I'm going to think about it. I'm going to give it two or three minutes, and then I'm going to say, OK, don't think about that.
No, no, I'm going to move forward with my day and all like nothing's changed.
But what changed for me was that I was the one that was controlling that. So I was the one saying, OK, I am going to think about this now, but not going forward.
And it's the same thing about controlling how we view where we are in this your grief process, you know, and that's what I'm saying moving forward to me.
It gives me more control over it rather than just moving along, you know, and because moving on means that I'm going to trade up almost block out something again. And that doesn't work. That doesn't work because it'll come back to bite you in your ass whenever whenever you're at least prepared for it.
I find myself now three years in. That I now can control the emotion a bit more cause a year in I couldn't and I think a lot of people sometimes struggle with the control. You know, people are at different stages with the grief and then someone could be 10 years in. I could still be so emotional and could be triggered by then. You know, I've got friends of mine that can't talk about the person they've lost because it still is too emotional as a word I'm using quite a lot lately.
And it's just sad. It's all just so sad. Yeah.
I mean, don't get me wrong. And for very long time it was it was a very sad person.
People always say the time is a healer.
And, you know, that's a good question.
If it, John, is the time a great healer, you know, the first person to say it to me that I didn't take kindly to this and you're like, shut your mouth.
What a stupid thing to say, of course, to be to be very polite about it.
But it is the truth, Brian, because you just learn through your different experiences. And that really starts to become, you know, to me, like I always envisioned inventions as almost like a big wind at the very beginning.
So, like, there's this huge, big wind. And then through time, the wind will start to sort of close over and become smaller and smaller. Now, the wind is still there on a few pockets. You will feel that rawness, but it's not a huge wind anymore. I mean, at the beginning, like it was the sadness of the I mean, it was just it was horrible at times.
You know, I probably could have been a little bit easier on myself in terms of things that I needed to experience. But I wanted to feel everything at different times.
I had a lot of and, you know, literally spending nights crying and are waking up crying was a thing that I that I experienced. And to be honest and, you know, this might be something that you're familiar with, but there is a comfort in that sadness and in that time of sort of intense emotion, you know, the sense of sort of moving out of that zone into the unknown, whatever that next feels is going to be was was quite scary.
So ten years down the line, I think I think by and large, I got things right for me. I'm in a place in my life now where, you know, there is calmness, there is love, there is joy. And whenever you're stuck in those early phases, that is just an alien concept. And you don't think it's ever going to be available to you as a person.
But certainly. In my instance, a young twenty six year old guy, you kind of think you kind of think your life is over. That's the age, because obviously your identity becomes wrapped. Whenever you sort of marry someone, you can form this identity together. And whenever that is that is crushed, you're left with the pieces of what's VirnetX. And then you have this sort of identity crisis yourself because you're not part of what what you'd become.
When I said to you earlier about this being a global news story, and it really was, what was McKeyla like? What was she like as a person? To me, she seemed like she was so much fun. Just it's so that's what I just thought, looking at that picture and reading what people were saying about her.
Yeah, well, I guess, yeah, that picture definitely was a snapshot of our whole you sort of got lots of the chemicals that are going to, you know, just hide and so on is the only thing of people like me who sadly didn't know McKeyla or, you know, at the time, that's the only image that we have that was beamed around the world.
Yeah, that's funny.
You know, the different things that you start to the fake reiffel for after a while and, you know, it was taken away, which is that our twenty seven years is just so cruel and had a whole new life to lose as a person tantalite a mother, you know, and experience all those things in life.
But, you know, being grateful for small mercies, part of me was like, you know, maybe just trying to comfort myself that, you know, she was in the prime of her life and she didn't have the experience, you know, a lot of awful things that not to happen through the course of your life. So you should always be remembered as that sort of beautiful twenty seven year old person in her prime.
And she only really experienced good things in her life up to that point. You know, she never had to suffer and even grief herself. And and funny, she she obviously she had a very, very strong relationship with her family and would have been well known. She very strong relationship with her father.
And even back then, I would have thought that someday she's going to have to grieve, you know, the loss of her father and her mother.
And that's suppose in many ways I was sort of frame and myself of being the person that will be helping her through that.
But I was grateful to him that she never had to experience that. She only got to be that strong, bubbly person that enjoyed life, enjoyed going out, enjoying social occasions.
And there's not many people to get to do that. So, you know, obviously it ended in the most brutal of circumstances.
But I guess for me, I try to sort of look at things that are positive and that comfort me in dealing with this most tragic of situations.
You know, you were asking, you know, what sort of person was Mikhaela who killed someone that had an extraordinary relationship with God as well as for a young person?
She had an extraordinary faith. And, you know, I think a lot of of how I was able to process things and to sort of keep this positive stance was knowing that and knowing more.
McKenna was know like right from the beginning. Right from the beginning.
And I was able to accept that Mikhaela was I was God as opposed to worrying, you know, are and it is like that's that's over now for Mikhaela. So whilst on a human level, on a personal level, I agree.
I yearned for Micheli here on Earth. You know, I was able to accept that she was with God, which made things much easier for me in terms of actually, you know, we just reconciling things in my head, you know? So that was very comforting for me and to know that. And because she had such a strong faith, I just I knew I knew that she was going to be with God.
And whilst that wasn't what I wanted to tell happened hours, it it was what it was.
And whilst I struggled with why the. That was going to be, you know, I'm also Catholic, being gay and being Catholic is something I've struggled with probably most of my life, but I'm at peace with it now. Do you think having your strong faith and Mikhaila, having her strong faith actually helped you in this process and make sense of it in the way that you lost Mikhaila through murder, the process of how it happened? How did you find peace with that?
First of all, Brian, it's for me, you know, being a Catholic, your relationship is with God. So obviously you've had a different journey.
I'm trying to sort of reconcile things. And maybe stereotypically, being a game of Catholic, you know, isn't something that's going to work. Your relationship with God is yours and yours alone. Yeah. That it helped things reconcile. And Mustafa, he did you know, I did struggle with you know, there's a famous way to bad things happen to good people.
And like, you know what I want more of an innocent person could be a McKeyla, you know, just a young, beautiful woman in the prime of her life. Teacher, am I sort of clean cut? And we sure as a pioneer shouldn't drink alcohol. She she just enjoyed the very, very simple things in life. So why why did she have to die and so screw honor.
And again, a softer way, and I just had to accept the fact that that God gives people free well and things will happen that will help them happen outside, you know, the control, for lack of a better word of sort of of God's plan. And, you know, one of the biggest things that we have as as Catholics is faith.
And it's the word faith is about sort of believing in things that that you can see that you can't fail. So you have to have faith for whatever reason that I would never understand. Maybe at some stage I will. And maybe it's over and I have to, ah, very forcefully get to the pearly gates, but maybe that it'll become a little bit clearer. But there's things that I just won't understand and I have to have faith that there is a plan there.
And that is something that that actually the club is very, very strong about.
I would call its plan. And she believed in that. She believed in that wholeheartedly.
When you were going on honeymoon, you must have been so excited. And I was listening to your podcast, Murder and Malicious last night. I think I listened to like eight episodes. I said to you before we started chatting, I could hear your voice all night calling because your sister Claire on the podcast with you and you were going, Claire, Claire. So all night all I was hearing was Claire.
They're the same size as John.
You made me sleepy, but not in a bad way. It's just because I was like half past one in the morning and I was so engrossed in the podcast Murder in Mauritius, which I'm sure people can still listen to on old podcast platforms. You were saying your day on the 10th of January 2011 just started out. You had breakfast together. You went, I think, on a golf lesson. McKayla lay by the pool, know 2:00 p.m. you went for lunch.
Then McKayla wanted something sweet. I think you said it was it was it a dark chocolate cake?
Yeah. She wanted. Well, yeah. Yeah. And that you said she brought them, you know, from Dubai with her and how she she wanted to go. And that sounds so normal, you know, just so like. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then like in a split second you were wondering.
Oh I wonder, I wonder where she is. And then you also said something that you kind of setsuo. Oh no. I'll go. Right. You know, I'll go.
And then you would said how you, you know, had been running around on the honeymoon. You know, she was a beautiful bride.
She's like, no, no, you sit here, you relax. So at any point in all of this grief, did you think to yourself, I should have went?
How did you make peace with that? You know what we're like as humans.
We can all sit back and go, why did I should I should have was at any point that you over the last ten years that you thought to yourself, why didn't I say to her, no, I'll go?
Yeah, well, I mean, you could probably imagine, Fran, it's it's something that David. To be perfectly frank, that I struggle with because. There is no reason why I should feel any guilt, but of course not. No, but I do. And, you know, it's that notion that, you know, you were there as a husband and mother, even happened to be married.
But, you know, I was just the type of person I you know, I always try to look after people and I always try to look after the most important people in my life. So I'm in a relationship occasionally with sort of not to kick her or protect. And, you know, maybe that feeling was even stronger whenever we traveled, whenever we traveled anywhere, you know, when you're going to places that are just sort of unfamiliar.
So and the thing about actually going for that brand, going to the basket was that the night before we were having drinks in the lobby bar, I wanted to do the same thing to have a chocolate bar with 30.
And I walked back to our room to get that, which was no real point at all. It was probably a five, 10 minute walk.
But because I did that and before she she didn't want me having to rollerblade everywhere for her.
So that's why I'm laughing when you're saying that, because I can imagine the relationship. That's exactly what it's like. It. Yeah, that's that's exactly a very normal conversation than any couple. What. Boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, husbands. That's just how our relationship is.
Yeah. You know, I'm like, you know that. And, you know, in another lifetime, you know, that would have happened the way I would have said no, I just go and I would have went to the room and we could be dealing with it would have been something that you just. Would have never experienced the way that had happened, and, yeah, Sudan has been a difficult one for me, I guess.
I hope, John, that wasn't an uncomfortable question. You know something that I know that in my. You're right. Yeah.
It's just sort of I think as humans we do we sometimes want to cause pain to ourselves. We want to question the what ifs. And the coulda, shoulda, woulda is constantly for sure.
And look, you know, whenever I talk, like I talk, you know, honestly and openly. So, I mean, you know, the very fact that I say, yeah, it's something that I struggle with. It is something that I struggle with.
And because it's the aid that was with me, she was aware of me and I was meant to look after and I didn't look after, you know, obviously, you know, I don't have you know, I am not the reason that Mikhaela isn't here, you know?
And she went to the room and, you know, everything and everything happened the way it did.
But, yeah, it's that that had been a particular problem and probably, you know, and it is it's a driver for me that I continue to sort of she justice on this, you know, because. Yeah, I just think that that's that is one thing that is at least Mikhaela is old is is that form of justice.
Justice. So, yeah, it's a big thing.
When you were sitting by the pool and you were there waiting for and time had lapsed in the back of your mind, what you going?
Oh, she's probably gone to the shop or she met someone or she was chatting with someone. What did you think where she was or she was in the room or was she having a nap?
What played up in your mind for wondering why she hadn't come back from getting her biscuit?
Yeah, I mean, I get very vivid thoughts about that time and, you know.
I think after a couple of minutes, you don't notice anything, you're just there, you know, doing whatever you're doing by the pool, whether you're reading or relaxing, of course.
Yeah, it's just we actually just finished lunch, which was right by the pool. So, yeah, you were just probably enjoying, you know, this wonderful sort of paradise or where you were.
And I mean, after the way this was going on, I just want to check here. So that's when I went back to the room.
But whenever I went to the room, I couldn't actually get access. I didn't have a key card. And whenever I knocked and became didn't answer. I guess at that point I thought that is a bit odd. But I knew that it wasn't something that was I didn't immediately rush to worry.
I just thought it was an odd space that you weren't thinking straight away or kicking out the door and you had no reason to know.
So sure. I mean, there obviously, you know, there's absolutely no sort of indication that there would be any any sort of.
Yeah, just a. I got a foul foul play or I had the issue where you'd have to panic and injure, but then obviously then went back over to look for Mickey to go back inside and how to go to the reception and then. But by that time, you know, sort of maybe 10, 15 minutes more passed at that time. Then they started to sort of worry. I started to worry. I mean, I whenever I get access to a room and then, yeah, it's become reality, unfortunately.
How do you process when all of this is happening? Is it panic? Is it shock? What are you thinking? Are you making any sense of what's happening?
My man was running, obviously at a very fond piece, and initially I felt that.
But Mikhaela had got into the bath because she had been experiencing a bit of back pain and I thought, God, maybe she's got a bit of a twinge here, she's put on the bath tub to sort of just soak in there for five, 10 minutes or whatever.
And she's she's fainted and the bath has continued to fill up. And this is going through your mind, you know, and many seconds like that sort of speed. Like it's an amazing rushing over and taking out and and then it becomes evident to me that that's something that someone has inflicted this on me.
That was going to be my next question. You went from thinking this was just an accident. She you got into the bath, you know, with back pain. I think you said in your podcast that you thought maybe she passed out from the heat and that could have been what happened. So when was it then you started to go?
You know, when you open your movie, you put her on the floor. You're thinking, actually, this this wasn't an accident, that this was murder or foul play.
Yeah, well, I don't really want to go into too much detail, of course, but yeah. Because I because I see marks on the killer's body that I knew.
And so, you know, but even at that point, like you're in a mode of and this isn't actually real, this is actually happening. And, you know, my whole sort of. Mode at that time was even though I was really stirred, I simply wasn't accepting that she was gone.
I was frantically trying to get Maddox to, you know, perform CPR and her heart going, you know, and even though like like you're doing this and the one part of your mind and then in the next part of your mind, you're like you're in that dark, dark space because you know that that that she's gone, you would never, ever be able to sort of comprehend the complexity of it.
One moment being in the most sort of best position you've ever been in in your life. And then ten minutes later, you're in the depths.
You're in the worst place of your life and at that pain and then obviously experience everything in place and being taken away and and all of that.
But to be honest, all of that didn't really matter because, like, I was gone, I was on the grind. It didn't matter what else happened to me. You know, it was immaterial in some ways because, you know, I just suffered this massive loss. So nothing really mattered to me anymore. So it became a very, very lonely space very quickly, obviously, because there for four.
For another two days before any family members actually could reach me. So, yeah, it was just an extraordinary time, an extraordinary tough time. And obviously it took probably a long time to actually deal with the traumatic. So obviously. Experience and traumatic death, as opposed to just what you will term a normal death and adds further layers of complexity to what you have to process, you know?
I couldn't simply go to grief. I know I had to sort of deal with everything else as well. And and, you know, we touched on at the very start of our conversation brand about why they said, you know, it's brilliant that you have sort of launched this here resource for people to try to sort of help with their journey.
But at the very, very beginning for me, whenever I returned back to Ireland, there was nothing for me to try to sort of process all of these different thoughts and jump onto Google.
Unlike, say, like, you know what?
You know what I do about my thoughts. My wife has been killed. You know, I'm twenty six. We were married for ten days, you know, a worthy goal with all that. That became a lonely and lonely experience.
And it's not something that you want to talk too much about, even with your family and friends, because they're grieving as well and they're worried about you and you don't want them to worry more about you.
So you're sort of part of the process, like, I don't know what that is, but it seems to be with Irish people and more specifically, that we just want to keep things to ourselves and try to deal with it ourselves. Do you think it's embarrassment?
Is it shame? Is it being afraid to cry because you're a macho man? What you think it is?
I mean, like I was never afraid actually of of showing my emotions. And I did cry. But I I guess the overriding feeling for me was protect other people, protect my family, because I can see how worried they were for me and did not want to add to that and are to not worry because, you know, I love my family.
I don't mean to sort of inflict more pain on them, even though it's an of thought to be thinking like that.
But for me, I just wanted to think about this. It was about two and a half months after McKinley died. We obviously bought a house and I chose to move into that house because I was really, really in a place where I wanted my own space. And I because I wanted to really cry. I wanted to do that by myself, you know, and it's not that I was embarrassed, but I guess I wanted the freedom to cry and just feel that all those emotions out and not have to sort of worry about how this might impact other people.
But, yes, you're right, Brian, there is not a degree of sort of toxic masculinity about us that yeah, it's like stiff upper left. And that's the way a lot of people live it up to be.
And it's nonsense. Like, you know, I normally in these conversations we are having is one step. And to sort of removing that Michael was murdered on the 10th.
I think he went back on the 13th. I think it was a Thursday. You know, you flight back and then I'm visualizing the difference in when you arrive there to a few days later, you're leaving and Mikael is past. She's you know, she's not alive anymore.
And then I'm trying to myself how you're feeling like shock has to be a very good thing because it numbs you, John, because of the contrast of all that love and that happiness and, you know, a young couple on their honeymoon. And then to a few days later, you're like, how do you get on that plane? Buckle your seat belt and just sit there? And I go, what the fuck? I couldn't even imagine what you were feeling.
Like, you know, before this all happened to me, Fran, I would be in the exact same position as you and that you could ever dream up like it's just the most awful thing.
And yet, you know, you say I was in shock. And, you know, looking back.
Yeah, you know, I was in shock and you were just trying to. You were trying to sort of comprehend things and there happened so, so quickly, you know, like we go back, I think it was on the Thursday and then on Friday we had the week.
And you know what Irish wigs are like? This became like I think it was like a three day a week.
And like there was it was literally thousands of people from all around Ireland were coming to this week. And and so you're really not your process and not.
And then on the Monday, you had the funeral, which was a huge, huge funeral.
And all of this kept on going on, going on. And it's like there's no time to draw breath here. So it's like, you know, where do you start with all of this?
When you were on the plane, when this is happening, were you aware? Ah, I know family members had flown out to join you because you were you were by yourself. Were you aware or did you comprehend how big this was? And when you got back home and, you know, the day, the wake and all those people, were you wondering why is there so many people here?
So I didn't it wasn't until I got back out of until I understood the magnitude of the thing. And it took me that that part took a long time for me to sort of understand, you know.
Why this was such a huge story, and so that's why there was so many difficult things for me to try to process people all over Ireland.
I'm sure there were starting to sort of recognize Ignacia to be this person in this sort of situation. That was just it was a minefield.
And maybe that maybe that contributed to the fact that I wanted sort of my own Speace so I could almost retreat to to sort of because every time I went out any more than, you know, you'll know this obviously huge public life, people will recognize it.
But people were recognizing me for the most awful thing possible. And I had no experience of that. You know, there was a lot and I had to try to understand and to try to take forward. But to be honest, at the beginning, whilst I observed all this going around me, it didn't really impact me because it didn't matter to me and because I just lost everything. So it didn't really matter. And I guess my personality type, I don't really be impacted by it, by other people anyway.
But after a while and it was sort of came out of the bubble that I died of that shock factor, you quickly have to sort of adapt to sort of, you know, this isn't going away any time soon. And obviously because because of the fact that the killer was murdered and became an international story, because it happened, obviously, and then there was going to be the trial. And so there was you know, there was going to be things for for the next coming years that that weren't going away and that I just had to try to navigate and watch me navigate my own grief and more complex, because there was other elements that have not had to go on to emphasise that, you know, at the beginning they said that, look, you know, having the advantage of looking back and taking the positives that I've grown through that experiences, you certainly wouldn't choose to experience the things that I have.
But I just had I had no other choice. It was either a sort of sink or swim really was would be the analogy that I would use. And and, yeah, Caylee's funeral was almost like a state funeral.
It was so big. There was such an outcry from people. You know, people really felt the emotion of of the sadness, you know, because I didn't enjoy our mom's funeral a bit like what you had said there, which I relate to. I wanted to kind of go indoors. I wanted to close the doors and close the curtains and just everyone leave me alone. And unfortunately, you can't do that because people are being so kind. People want to show you that they love you, that they support you, that they're here for you, you know.
How did you find the actual funeral?
Itself and the day of the funeral. It was kind of it was becoming, I suppose, the kind of almost sort of marathon event, for lack of a better word, because we had the week on the Friday, the Saturday, Sunday, and it was culminating in the funeral on the Monday.
So and in sort of one way, as I was happy to sort of reach this point, because I cannot believe that. Well, then all of a sudden oddness will come. I know. And but.
On the on the money itself, actually, it was a beautiful, beautiful day. Really, the sun was shining and not made things easier logistically, even sort of walk down the road.
And but, yeah, I kind of took solace from that. You know, that is God's way and his way of saying that that I am here, that I'm in a good place. And but yeah, I mean, the enormity of it as opposed to just sort of kind of overwhelmed me a little bit. But because I was in such a sort of notorious and happened, it didn't really matter to me. It just it just it just was a side show on whenas that was a beautiful thing.
And I was always very respectful of the amount of people that did come and show their respects and then read after. And of course, the amount of people that I was actually praying for me at that time, I really did feel that.
And the thought that people were actually praying for me was a very strong thing. I really believe in the power of prayer and a lot of people when this offer that don't have that. So I kind of look to that as a positive thing. And that's sort of that's sort of kept me strong. But as you know, like, it's it's only whenever I use the term when the music stops and it becomes really reality, and that's when you really start to sort of even because you left, everything is down and you're just left with the reality of a world without that person anymore.
And that's that's when it becomes really sad, because actually, you know, certainly once the funeral was was incredibly sad, the week itself was. Was an almost an uplifting thing, Irish lyrics are really positive thing, I think, of joy. They can be jovial, whether that's whether that's nervous. Energy needs to be laid out and put like there was moments of laughter.
It was he of course, you know, it's this is a beautiful thing. I think we are very lucky that that that's there for us in our culture.
I think because they're still physically there in the coffin, you can get their hands, you can stroke their hair, you can kiss them. You know, you can share stories about them because they're with you. I think it allows you to laugh and humorous because they're completely part of it.
Yeah. I guess my feeling about that was that while his body was there, her spurred her soul was already with God. And, you know, that's how he felt about it.
So it wasn't a huge thing for me that I had to constantly be there at the coffin. I wouldn't have had the opportunity anyway, probably because there was so many people coming and going.
It just would have been overwhelming. So am I.
As I say, early, I always felt that that McKenna was with God. So her physical body didn't play a huge sort of role for me. And I'm really, really pleased that I was able to sort of think that way and feel that way. I know people, you know, differently. Sometimes it's hard to believe that the person is there in a coffin.
But to me, that's just a physical body, you know, and I can understand that where I get where we're much more than that when all of this and the wake, the funeral.
Did you feel, John, when you were out and about paranoid, that you had to behave in a certain way or of someone seeing you laugh because you now had a public a very public profile, which, you know, that doesn't happen to a lot of people who lose someone. And it didn't.
It didn't really. So whilst I was able to sort of see that, OK, you know, you can feel those eyes on your brain like I didn't actually, because and again, I'm fortunate that I feel this way. I just I don't care what other people think, you know, I need to be more like you.
Yeah. It's like I mean, those people are going to form their own opinions. And so, like, if people are there thinking, God, there's not, there's that guy and his wife to stay three months to go, you know, and he's laughing, you know, like, what the hell? God, he's getting over things. But yeah. So what you're meant to play this sort of dictum where you go.
Yeah, you know, I mean, not that's not real. That's not life. I mean, I agree with you, Honor, that those Sweden's honor, the moments we are happy on are the moments for your side. I've heard things. I've seen things about myself. And, you know, that's crap.
You know, all of these things, you know, they're always a bunch of other people, Brand. They're always about other people. They're never about me. They're never about you. It's just whatever people are in in their own lives. So I think the quicker that we all can accept that and the quicker that lies and the easier on ourselves when you you know, you become a widower at twenty six years of age.
So, so young. Did you ever back then, all those years ago, everything to yourself you'd ever be happy again? No, definitely not.
I mean that's whenever you're your sort of your life is crushed and so was that.
Aimlessly wants to create a career and there is no there is no light. There is no light. There is no hope. And there is a lot of it's just darkness and darkness and. You know, I would have never thought that that you could be in a position where you would even and, you know, experience love again, you know, because how could you?
I mean, you're my man. You love your husband. And you could never think about Norman someone the way you do and do your thing. So, you know, you can't comprehend those things. So I very much felt that that was that was that for me for a very long time. Obviously, we talked about it again. And, you know, like, time is great here. And, you know, the beauty of life starts to open up again.
The gray clouds start to part and there is a glimmer of light that comes in. And I guess that's what happened in my own life. And I was, I suppose, open enough to to embrace that. And I didn't I didn't feel I didn't feel any way sort of negative about that. I kind of felt that that it was a way that there was a time for me that that had to happen and that I guess in many ways I would have wanted to have.
And you are a dot baby. James Mitchum's. When did Baby James arrive?
In October. Yes, October. OK, so, yes, we're three months now.
So what is that like? Are you sleeping? Yeah, it's it's a bit of a kind of an issue at the moment. You've been sleeping very well, but then I've been trying to sort of get them all into a better routine and it's. Yeah, he's not sleeping brilliant at the moment. But you know what plan? I'm not complaining too much because the system is just such a joy. The embodiment of just the best thing about life is just yeah, it's just complete passing and we're just overjoyed to be be in the situation in our lives as funny because, you know, people have been going to see it all night and every word twenty, twenty has been the worst year ever.
And they us for us it's been a while. OK, let's take away all the awful things that have happened through this pandemic and people on a personal level, we've experienced great, great joy. So it's been a wonderful year for us.
I'm just so glad to have felt like twenty twenty was the year, but just kept on giving just in every aspect. It's like stop with the shitty bad news. You know, I think something that I talk about a lot on this podcast with other guests coming up in the series is how covid I don't think I think will will hinder people's grief. I think the fact that funerals are so, so different now that people can't embrace, you know, they can't hug people can't be there for each other.
Yeah, no, it's a huge point. And, you know, we are very sociable beings. That connection is just so important and no more so in the times when whenever we lose people and must be so, so often that you've heard the different stories, people not being able to even attend sort of ground parts. Yeah. Sort of funerals and stuff.
So to not be there for your friends and your family and to have that connection and to hug, we're I'm a big hugger.
Like I know this feeling, that human connection and people you sort of hugged me today, John, if you were here, Dardis, you owe me a hug another time.
Yeah, definitely. It would be nice maybe to get out a little bit more and almost show off, comes to the world begins and a lovely bubble and that the three of us have been able to experience pat ourselves. And yeah, I'm just I'm just really grateful for that.
I see. Because I was stalking your Instagram, obviously it's how I get all my guests for this podcast like I'm flying into DBMS. Honestly, it's unbelievable. And I noticed we were in, I think, the Westbury the same day before Christmas. I think you could have hugged me that I think we overlapped.
We would have crossed into each other by then before Christmas.
Yeah, we missed the opportunity, obviously, to see girls from people like yourself. And we are the best we are the best lot.
But I lived in Dublin for five years and worked in Dublin, and it's just such a really important place for us. We would have always maintained a presence and so we were determined to go. And entrepreneur GM is on to get get him down to Dublin. Ireland is a lovely thing and even though it was slightly different. But just, you know what it's like to walk on Grafton Street.
I know the big Christmas tree in the family. Oh, I know. It's a it's a lovely thing.
You've actually made me feel completely OK with my grief and. The journey I'm on because I've recognized everything you've said, the words you've used, as opposed to moving on, you move forward and about being in control and about feeling it. I was very much like that. And I'm still like that. And I believe and if you're feeling an emotion, express it, you know, whether it's a cry or a laugh.
So I can kind of agree with everything you've said to me is kind of rang through to me. Yeah.
I mean, it's lovely to hear you say that and look wise. There is a huge amount of similarities in what people will experience with grief. It is unique and it's funny. Whenever McKinley died at the beginning, it's really just annoying me actually, that that when people would have said, you know, I've lost my husband or I've lost my wife or I've lost and I know how you feel.
And whilst I understood that they were just trying to be historic in that moment and almost out of solidarity, really used to annoy me because I was like, you've no idea how you feel because you don't know me. You didn't know me. You didn't know our relationship. So how could you say, you know how I feel? And I would never, ever tell anyone. But I guess it's probably along that area that a lot of people will mean, well, you know, a lot of times those same things that just just don't actually do you any good.
And even I you know, if ever I was speaking to someone that had lost a husband or wife, I would never say, I know how you feel, but I would listen more intently and I would trade off or anything that that could help. But, you know, the kindest words that probably I ever receive was to be to be kind to yourself from what happened to you.
You know, there has to be trauma. And in your relationship now, you know, with everything, have you carried out any of that trauma with you say if you and Tara and James, you know, writing about her on holiday and Tara goes away for a walk at a time, in your mind to you go, oh, she's been two minutes. She's been five minutes. She's been ten minutes. Have you managed any of that trauma where you go into panic mode at all?
There's there's in the relationship the many times there's been a number of occasions where Tara has popped to the shops and has been longer than normal.
And I have experienced a lot of anxiety over in those moments. And that will probably be magnified now with James.
And of course, even I as someone that is sort of trying to deal with trauma in my life, like I already go to places in my mind, you know, almost like some sort of inevitability that we want to be taken from me. And I think it's a trait and I have spent so long trying to sort of understand that. And I think it is my main sort of way almost in preparing me almost to sort of lessen the blow if something was that was likely to happen.
They're not thoughts that sort of are there all the time, but it's just the way my mind will operate now. And and I'm not sort of saying that, God, it's going to happen. I'm just it's a matter of time.
It is there. It is there. And it is one of the consequences of that and of that trauma in my life. I don't see a lot. You know, it holds us back. And I think I don't think that it's a very noticeable thing, even with Tara. And even though she's very aware of it, obviously, she's had lots of conversations, but it's just there.
And I Brian and, you know, part of your life probably probably is.
And if it is, then so be it.
A scene, an interview that you had said. I don't know how recent it is. And you said I think people at times think that when you have suffered the way that I have suffered, that maybe you just have to continue to be clouded by negative energy and you have to live your life a certain way, almost in victim mode. But the reality is that life has been very good to me.
Well, and again, like I always try to be open and honest and that we had touched on earlier. But, you know, should you almost flare to a certain mould because people might have this expectation of, you know, when you. Quite innovative and sexy laugh. What does that mean, you know, and like, how can I sit here today with a beautiful wife, with a beautiful song, with a lovely family, a brilliant group of friends, and not be thankful and not be grateful to me.
That's just an alien concept. So I have to embrace the joy in my life. And there's been a lot of darkness and there has been a time for the darkness. There's also a time for joy. And I just believe that life is such a beautiful, beautiful gift and humor to sort of, you know, turn my back on that.
That's just not who I am. That's not my natural feelings. And it's just it's this high proof life.
Thank you so much, John, for being so honest, so truthful. I admire your bravery. I admire your honesty. And you've you're actually helping me today in everything you've said, and I honestly mean that. So thank you so, so much.
Thank you, Brian. It's really a lovely, lovely thing to say. And yeah, look, if any of our conversation can positively impact anyone, then isn't it worthwhile? I mean, I just want to say thank you so much again for for inviting me on and for doing what you're doing, because it's not an easy thing for you either, Brian, because to constantly talk about the idea of race and you're constantly recalling all the different feelings that you're experiencing with your mother.
So I think it's really commendable that you're doing that because you're doing that for other people.
So well done emotionally. I feel that I'm I'm stronger and I've taken so much, honestly, from everyone that's been on the podcast. So, like, I'm using them as like my therapists. And it's so it's been so honestly beneficial to me. Like what you said, you've got to feel it and I want to feel it. And it's a journey and it's something grief. And I are friends. We have to be friends, you know.
Yeah, no, it's that give some raise privately. It's a roller coaster that you just have to ride it and you know, there's nothing wrong with feeling down and you're going to sort of.
Viticulturist, do you know a connection such as a photo or a smile or a sign? I mean, you just have to sort of you have to feel that in that moment, you admit yourself that you are a hugger.
So the next time I see you, you owe me one big hug, John.
That'll be call in your ear to about that. Right.
John, thank you so much. Give James hugs and kisses from all of us. I well, of course. Thanks again, Brad. I'd like to thank John for his honesty and willingness to speak to me today. It's clear he will always hold McKeyla in his heart and remember her as part of his family forever.
Next week, I meet Benji Bennett. Benji talks about losing his son Adam suddenly in 2007 and out in the wake of his loss. Benji was moved to memorialize his son in a series of children's books.
He was dearly and deeply loved by all of us. He was funny. He knew nothing but happiness and running around in bare feet and and freedom. And that is the beauty. And that was always then became the message of the books is that nobody knows what's going to happen. And if children are happy and they're told they're no, often they're given a little bit of freedom to do what kids are supposed to do. That for me is the secret of raising happy kids.
And to be told you loved every night and to have a happy dream because you just going to wake up happy the next day.