Coleraine tragedy: ‘Remarkable story of true friendship between Nigel McGraw and Russell McAfee shows us how to treat each other’

Those mourning the sudden death of two best friends in Coleraine heard yesterday that the final chapter of their lives “although tragic is a remarkable story of true friendship” which was “a lasting memorial of how we should treat each other”.

Saturday, 4th December 2021, 4:00 am

Nigel McGraw, 53, and Russell McAfee, 61, both had sudden deaths in Mr McAfee’s flat in the Elms Park area of Coleraine on Monday afternoon, 29 November.

There have been copious tributes on social media to the two well liked local characters, with The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Richard Holmes, issuing a statement of solidarity and sympathy to their families and friends.

Mr McAfee’s funeral took place at his step-daughter’s home, 22 Willow Drive, Coleraine yesterday at 11am followed by interment in Portstewart Cemetery while Mr McGraw’s took place at his sister’s home, 560 Fairview Park, Articlave at 2pm followed by interment in Coleraine Cemetery.

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Firefighters were called to Mr McAfee’s flat in the Elms Park area of Coleraine on Monday afternoon. Pic: Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Pastor Bert Ritchie of Coleraine Church of Christ conducted both funeral services yesterday. He said that “the final chapter of their lives, although tragic, is a remarkable story of true friendship.”

He said that “their friendship is a lasting memorial of how we should treat each other. It is the type of friendship that does not depend on one or the other or both being perfect but the type of which is spoken, a true friend is one who knows all your faults and loves you anyway.

“I’m told there were times they acted like an auld married couple, especially when it came to the banter between the two teams they supported - Liverpool and Man Utd.”

They had both booked to see Rangers play in Dundee this weekend but “cruel events” took them and thwarted shared dreams they had still to fulfill.

“There remain unwritten chapters in his life which would have followed had he [Russell}, along with Nigel, ever launched the boat they were saving up for to fish the Bann. The yarns which would have followed sadly will never be told by the father, grandfather and great grandfather.”

Russll was “one of those rare people who had a silver lining to every cloud” a man with a “pure golden heart”. He was “an enemy of none and a friend to all”. He was also “adored by every child that came into his life”.

He added: “Our Christian faith prepares us for this day. Whereas those without the faith see it as an end of life, the Christian sees it as a beginning.”

The PSNI said that post-mortems have been carried out and they await further toxicology reports. No cause of deaths has been determined.

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