Coleraine tragedy: Close friends Nigel McGraw and Russell McAfee to be buried on same day

The funerals will take place tomorrow (Friday) in Coleraine for two close friends who died suddenly in mysterious circumstances.

Nigel McGraw, 53, and Russell McAfee, 61, were due to travel to Scotland this weekend to attend a Rangers FC match.

No cause of death has yet been given.

The PSNI told the News Letter last night that post-mortem examinations have been carried out and police will now await the results of further toxicology reports.

Police and Fire Service are at the scene at the Elm's Park area of Coleraine on Monday. Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

A funeral notice last night said Mr McAfee, 43b Elms Park, Coleraine was the son of the late Mary and John, brother of Robert, Jonathan and the late Peter and father of Ian, step-father of Leona, Lindsay, Nadine, Zoe and Benn and “a much loved granda and great-granda”.  

His funeral service will be at his step-daughter’s home, at 22 Willow Drive, Coleraine on Friday at 11am followed by interment in Portstewart Cemetery.

The funeral notice for Mr McGraw, of Lisnablagh Road in Coleraine, noted that he was the son of Robert and the late Irene, brother of Jean, Phyllis, Valerie and Deborah and “a much loved uncle and great-uncle” and step-brother of Roberta, Allen and David.  His funeral service will also be in his sister’s home, 560 Fairview Park, Articlave on Friday at 2pm followed by interment in Coleraine Cemetery.

Both wakes are private due to current Covid guidelines.

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens, Richard Holmes, said their deaths had left “two families mourning the loss of their loved one, and an entire community in shock at these unexpected deaths”. He said his thoughts and prayers are with the men’s families, friends and neighbours.

Police reported their “sudden deaths” at Mr McAfee’s flat in the Elms Park area of Coleraine on Monday afternoon. The PSNI said they attended the scene, along with other emergency services, and were satisfied that there was “no immediate risk to the public”. Police also said the deaths are “not being treated as suspicious at this time”.

There was no obvious sign of any fire at the property but one eyewitness said firefighters in specialist hazardous material suits entered the flat.

The fire service has confirmed that they were called to the scene just before 2.40pm on Monday and that two male casualties were confirmed dead in a property.

“Using specialist equipment firefighters took gas readings in the property and surrounding areas. Gas readings were zero. The incident was dealt with at 6.05pm.”

Over 100 messages of sympathy for the two men were left on social media yesterday under their funeral notices. Geoffrey Niblock said Russell was “such a great guy, from a lovely family” while Jean Johnston described him as “a true gentleman and the best friend Nigel could ever have had”.

Norah Hutchinson said that Nigel was “was one of the best” and that there was “always a bit of craic” when you saw him. Ivan Neely described him as “a great fella” and added that his prayers are with his family at this sad time. Janias Thom concurred that he had been “a real character, full of fun and banter”.

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Ben Lowry

Editor