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Exclusive: 'Mad Dog' Adair on heartbreak at losing son to heroin

NewsBy Paula Mackin
Adair with a picture of his late son, Jonathan (Pic: Conor McCaughley)
Adair with a picture of his late son, Jonathan (Pic: Conor McCaughley)
Johnny Adair with son Jonathan
Johnny Adair with son Jonathan
Johnny Adair with his son Jonathan
Johnny Adair with his son Jonathan

Johnny Adair has spoken of the heart-breaking moment his world came crashing down.

In a raw, brave and emotional interview with the Sunday World, the grieving father revealed for the first time how his tragic son Jonathan died from a heroin overdose.

After weeks of speculation a toxicology result last week confirmed what he says he knew in his heart – his son was addicted to the “devil’s drug”, and he paid the ultimate price.

Despite desperate and repeated attempts, Adair couldn’t save his son and openly admits Jonathan had no chance in his fight against heroin.

“It was smack, heroin, I found out last week,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World at his home on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast, he relived the moment his world came crashing down, knowing that many would revel in his pain as divine retribution for his past life. 

“I knew it deep down and I am not ashamed to say that, in fact I am proud to say that because I want people to realise that this is what this drug does to you. My son was a fit, good-looking healthy, big, big boy who went to the gym but that horrible drug got its grip and that’s what it did to him.

“He no longer had any control over it and sadly that was the end of my son. So I am not ashamed to say what killed him. 

“Why should I hide away the drug that killed my son because me saying it lets people know, if it kills Johnny Adair’s son it can kill me. If I was hiding that I would be a cheat, if one person listens to me, it’s worth it,” Adair said.

The 32-year-old’s death almost three months ago tore the heart out of the entire Adair family. Each day is a struggle and Johnny admitted they may never accept the fate of Jonathan.

 Jonathan Adair

“What happened to Jonathan a couple of months ago, that devastated Gina as it did the rest of the family. We just have to be strong for each other. It wasn’t expected, it’s crazy, it’s such a sad loss. You don’t expect to bury your son. It’s hard, you know what I mean? 

F**k, you just don’t expect that. You see around you what happens in life and life is cruel, all that stuff, but when it happens to yourself...” 

His voice trails away as one of Ulster’s most feared paramilitary figures is consumed with grief. 

Recalling the moment he was told his son had been found dead, Johnny takes a deep breath, the memory is shocking as it is painful. The hammer blow came as he settled down to watch Sheffield boxer Kell Brook’s title fight on September 10.

It’s date that will forever stay with him.

“I had the fight booked and was ready to watch it and the next thing two cops came up. You never see the cops here, they rapped the door and I brought them in and then they just told me, it was f**k – I was sitting just going what? Ah f**k, I couldn’t believe it, then you think it couldn’t be. It was,” he said.

The former paramilitary boss had the daunting task of telling ex-wife Gina that their son was dead, breaking the shattering news to siblings who begged their father to admit he had got it wrong.

“The rest of his family is down in England 300 miles away so I couldn’t just run down and say. So I had to phone, I had to phone Belfast. My daughters was saying ‘No, no daddy, you’ve got it wrong, it couldn’t be’. 

“I had to tell them all no, the police were just away. So that was hard, me having to make that phone call, it was the worst phone call I have ever had to make. It’s one thing telling someone that face to face,” he explained.

Jonathan is never far from his father’s mind, nor is the future of his four-year-old grandson Harley who keeps asking his ‘Papa’ where his daddy is.

“It’s every day, obviously it’s times like this that you start to reflect on things you didn’t want to say. There is not one minute in the day that goes by when it doesn’t hit me. 

“When the people are alive you don’t need to go over all these wee things but when you are away you are just left with your thoughts and your memories and you go over it and it’s sad, it’s just sad.

“God love him — he has left two lovely wee boys, a wee boy in Belfast and my wee grandson Harley who is only four. When he asks we tell him he’s up there with the stars and that hurts me, especially when it’s just out of the blue.

“If I’m taking him home or something and he’ll say something about his daddy, it’s a lump in the throat, and tears in the eye. Nobody is encouraging him to say something it’s just the innocence of children. ‘Daddy take me into see the big boat’ and you know that was something he and his daddy were doing. That really hits you, I just have to try and give a wee bit more, the love his daddy is not here to give him,” the grandfather-of-three explained.

Johnny and Jonathan had the closet of relationships until the drugs pushed them apart. Both Johnny and Gina’s pleas and interventions were ignored by their son who had fallen too deep into the dirty world of heroin. 

“I knew, I knew even though he denied that to me. That was what our last and biggest argument was about. I knew, there was all sorts of speculation of how he died, the papers reported it was the blues – Valium – but I had my guesses. It was only last week the police came and told me that it was heroin intoxication.

“I loved him and he loved me. The only problems we had in life was me arguing with him about drugs, asking him to stop taking them. When you are taking drugs there’s nothing else to give two f**ks about. They (addicts) don’t realise, I explained it to him, the only reason why I am doing that is because you are my son and I love you. I don’t want you doing it but when you have drugs inside it’s not the person it’s the drug you are talking to.

“Sadly that was our life and his mother’s life too. As parents you obviously don’t want to see your kid abusing drugs so obviously you try everything. 

“But he wasn’t a child of three years of age that we could say ‘don’t do that’, he was a 32-year- old boy, a man. If he had just have listened to what I said he would have realised – Da you’re right, I’m just so sorry Da, but it’s too late,” he said quietly.

While Jonathan’s death hits him like a train every day, deep down Johnny expected this tragic and heart-breaking outcome. 

“It is inevitable if someone abuses drugs like that then there is only one place they’re going and it’s six foot under. It is a horrible f**king drug and that’s what it does to you. 

“It’s a horrible, stinking drug, they call it in Mexico the ‘devil’s drug’ and that is what it is. I have always hated that drug, always hated what it does to people. 

“We may never get over this but as a family we took a wee bit of strength out of the fact we know he died peacefully. You hear stories, awful stories, and that’s how it normally ends, but he just closed his eyes and went.”

© Sunday World