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Man (44) charged with murder of grandfather Thomas O’Halloran as Clare town in shock over horrific London killing

Thomas O'Halloran (87) on his mobility scooter playing the accordion outside in west London. Photo: PA© PA

Police said Lee Byer, of Southall, west London, will appear at Willesden Magistrates' Court today.

The development comes as President Michael D Higgins has reached out to the family of tragic Co Clare emigrant Thomas O’Halloran, who was stabbed to death on his mobility scooter in west London on Tuesday.

The daylight attack on the 87-year-old grandfather has horrified the UK, and locals and family in his home town of Ennistymon.

Following a major appeal, a 44-year-old male suspect is in custody after an early-morning raid by armed police yesterday.

Denis Vaughan, from Ennistymon, Co Clare, said the whole town is deeply shocked by the tragic events.

“It’s horrendous. Absolutely horrendous. How could anybody do that to a defenceless old man?” he asked.

“We are all at a loss to understand. It’s unbelievable.

“Tom left Ennistymon 70 years ago, but people remember him – very quickly we knew he worked in a local shop before he left, and I would know his brothers.

“The town is grieving, as is everyone in west London. People are in shock.

“It doesn’t matter that Tom left so long ago – he is still a son on Ennistymon.

“It’s terrible for this to befall him. And it’s terrible for this small town to see one of our own dying in such circumstances.

“This is presently full of tourists, and life is good, but this has uprooted us all.”

A neighbour and family friend of Mr O’Halloran’s in Greenford, west London, has set up a GoFundMe appeal for the pensioner’s family to cover his funeral.

Skye Dunnage described Mr O’Halloran, who was also known as “Terry” to locals in west London, as a “polite, kind and funny man” who was beloved in his community.

The kind-hearted expat even raised money for Ukraine by busking.

Ms Dunnage said he “still had plenty of life left in him” when his life was cruelly cut short.

“Many of you locally would have known Tom for playing instruments and busking in train stations around the Greenford area to feed his family and also to raise money for Ukraine.”

Ms Dunnage said Mr O’Halloran, who emigrated as a teenager over 70 years ago, also fought in World War II and later worked as a caretaker until his retirement.

“Tom was a grandad and a dad and very much a family man, hence the reason why he was out busking for his family in hard times.

Police and forensic officers at a property in Southall, west London, after a man was arrested for the fatal stabbing of Thomas O'Halloran. Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire© PA

Former MP for Ealing North, Stephen Pound, who knew Mr O’Halloran for many years, said the friendly expat was “at the heart of the community”.

“He was a lovely, sweet man who was at the centre of everything in Greenford.

“He was one of those characters that make a place special. He was always there, holding court outside the cafe or playing his accordion.

“Terry, as we called him, was always raising money for people and looking out for people.

“As I said to someone earlier, he was like the uncrowned king of Greenford, and his mobility scooter was like his throne.

“He will be missed greatly. People like him don’t come along often.”

President Michael D Higgins has made efforts to contact Mr O’Halloran’s immediate family in London to express his condolences.

It is understood Mr O’Halloran will be buried in London. However, no formal plans have been made.

Fearful friends and neighbours of Mr O’Halloran gathering at a meeting called by London Metropolitan Police commanders last night to voice their horror and anger at the latest death on the UK capital’s streets.

Mr O’Halloran became the 59th homicide victim in London this year – and the sixth in just four days – when he was stabbed to death near Greenford’s Cayton Road, just off the A40, at about 4pm on Tuesday.

Following a major public appeal in which police released an image of a man they wanted to speak to, an arrest was made in the early hours of yesterday.

Around a dozen officers arrested a 44-year-old man at his mother’s home in Southall, following a tense 30-minute stand-off.

The raid took place just 3km from where Thomas O’Halloran had his life taken so callously in Greenford just days earlier.

Neighbours told the British media police broke down the door of the property at 1.35am and rushed inside.

Rahul Patel (28), an accountant who lives nearby, told the Daily Telegraph: “There was loads of riot gear, guns and loads of people, a dog, armed police – they were circling the street.”

Fellow resident Piera Cheent (76) said she saw the suspect being dragged out of the house.

“Two officers were holding him with his hands behind his back,” he said.

“As soon as he came out of the house, he sat on the floor.

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“Eventually, they picked him up and, took him away, put him in the van.

“He wasn’t violent, but he was resisting, he didn’t want to go.

“There was screaming and shouting as he went.”

Speaking from her home in Westgate-on-Sea, near Margate, Cindy O’Neill (37) – one of Mr O’Halloran’s grandchildren – told the Telegraph: “He was such a lovely, lovely person.

“We are all just in a state of shock.”

Ms O’Neill, a mother of two, added: “It’s terrible. I can’t think straight. It’s just so awful.”

Linda O’Halloran, a niece of the victim, from Ennistymon, said the family was finding it “very hard” to process his death.

“We’re the most open-hearted people, but this is very hard for my parents,” she told the Telegraph.

“It’s very raw and they’re trying to come to terms with it.”

Mr O’Halloran was one of a family of 16, the majority of whom all emigrated.

“It’s a classic tale of 1930s/40s Ireland where most families lived in relative poverty and as soon as they were able most of them went to England,” said local Ennistymon councillor Shane Talty.

“That part of the story is a familiar tale to most Irish families.

“He seems to have brought the music tradition with him and carried it through his life.

“He would have come home here to Ennistymon every year until his age crept up about 10 years ago.

“It’s a dreadful tragedy – nobody can understand.”

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