Family of father-of-six who died at holiday park in ‘difficult return’ for vigil

The family hopes the vigil, described as a peaceful gathering that will be open to the public, will raise awareness to help police investigations.

A family is making a “really difficult” return to an East Sussex holiday park to hold a vigil one year on from a father-of-six’s death.

Michael McDonagh, who was living in London, was on holiday with his family at the Parkdean resort in Camber Sands when he died aged 53 in August last year following an altercation with a group of people.

Sussex Police arrested seven people after the incident, with six bailed and one released with no further action, and the investigation is ongoing.

Michael McDonagh
Michael McDonagh died at a holiday park in Camber Sands, East Sussex (Handout/PA)

His daughter Stephanie McDonagh told the PA news agency that her family thought they would never be able to return to the area and said the gathering in his memory at 1pm on Saturday outside the park will be “really difficult”.

She said: “It’s probably the worst year of our lives, as anyone could imagine, and it’s been an extremely difficult year for everyone.

“Obviously, we know what’s happened to dad, we know that he’s not with us any more, but understanding that and processing that is completely different.

“You still expect to see him, you still expect to see him walk through the door, you still pull out your phone, and try to call him.”

The 31-year-old solicitor described Mr McDonagh as “the glue that held” their family together and an “upbeat” father who had a sense of adventure that saw him zip-line and cliff dive a few months prior to his death.

She said: “Dad was such a family man and he always put his family first and sort of every decision he made was for his family.

“He’s the one that pushed us to achieve things, that we thought we could never achieve.”

Ms McDonagh also spoke of how it is “really hard to come to terms” with her father going to miss out on grandchildren being born and family celebrations.

She said: “It feels like we’re going through the biggest thing in our lives and the biggest problem in our lives and the one person you want to talk to about it, he’s not there for it.”

The family hopes the candlelit vigil, described as a peaceful gathering that will be open to the public, will raise awareness and encourage any witnesses to help the police with their investigations along with honouring him.

Parkdean Camber Sands in East Sussex. (ResilienceUAV / Alamy Stock Photo)
Parkdean Camber Sands is in East Sussex (ResilienceUAV/Alamy/PA)

She said: “Dad had his wife and six children and his two grandchildren but the effect he had on his extended family and friends is massive.

“It’s not just his family that were affected by his death. There’s so many other people that still want answers.”

Sussex Police Detective Chief Inspector Emma Vickers said: “We have been conducting a thorough, complex investigation into the death of Michael McDonagh since the tragic events of 6 August 2022.

“Our thoughts remain with Michael’s family, who are being supported by specialist officers while we search for the answers they deserve.

“A dedicated team has completed a painstaking review of CCTV footage and taken more than 150 statements as we look to establish the full facts of what happened that evening.

“Six people arrested on suspicion of Michael’s murder have been released under investigation, while a seventh person who had been arrested has been released with no further action.

“We continue to appeal for any witnesses, or people with relevant video footage, to contact police online or via 101, quoting Operation Molton.”

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