The heartbroken mum of a fisherman lost at sea has revealed the ‘unbearable pain’ of not knowing if he’ll ever be found is ‘killing her’.
Julie McGrath said she’s “not ready to say goodbye” to her 34-year-old son, Carl McGrath who disappeared with his crew on January 27.
In an emotional interview with North Wales Live, the 56-year-old told of the agony of coping with the double tragedy of the loss of Carl and the death of her eldest son Anthony .
The mum-of-three from Conwy admitted she and Carl didn’t have the “perfect relationship,” but said he was her “pride and joy.”
Carl and his two crew members, Alan Minard and Ross Ballantine were on board the Nicola Faith, which was due back into port at midnight last Wednesday, but never returned after setting sail at 10am.
Despite a huge search and multiple reports of debris across the coast, no trace of the boat or those on board has yet been found.
Julie said not knowing Carl’s whereabouts is “killing her” after already losing one son.
She said: “My eldest son, Anthony passed away when he was 26 and I’ve been dealing with that grief for 10 years.
“To then hear about Carl, the pain is unbearable, I can’t believe this is happening, why me? Why my boys?
“Losing Anthony made me more over protective of my other two children because I was so scared of losing them.
“Life went on for everyone else but me after that moment, and I really struggled to deal with it.
“Me and Carl had our ups and downs over the years and for a while, we didn’t speak until he had a serious motorbike accident and broke his back.
“I thought I was going to lose him then, he ended up on life-support, it was horrible.
“But he got out of hospital and back on his feet and that brought us back together again.
“I think, because I’ve smothered him, it’s caused us to fall out again and the last thing I told him was: ‘I love you, you can’t take that away from me, but if you need me I’m here.'”
Although they weren’t always on speaking terms, Julie said she would often see Carl in the street or on his boat, and would keep up with how he was doing through her youngest child, Lauren, 26.
“He was comfortable with that and I came to terms with it, I wasn’t happy about it because I wanted him back in my life, but I could see he was happy with that and I had to accept it,” Julie bravely admitted.
“But whenever I saw him on his boat, which he spent two years doing up, it was fantastic to see the joy on his face over something he’d achieved.
“It made me feel so proud, he got his life back on track, even with all the hurt from losing his brother.”
Recalling the earth-shattering moment she found out the news about Carl’s disappearance, Julie said: “I was at Lauren’s house as it was her 26th birthday when she got a call to say Carl had gone missing.
“I went into hysterics, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“I went down to the boat house first thing the next morning and we started searching around the Orme.
“The support was unreal, watching rescue crews go out and to see even strangers were looking was amazing, I couldn’t believe it.”
She added: “The RNLI, coastguard and rescue teams are absolutely fantastic, I can’t thank them enough, I wish I could see them to thank them in person.
“They are all doing their best to get these boys back and you can’t ask for any more than that, they are so brave risking their own lives when they have families too.
“I thank them with what heart I have left.
“But every day is agony waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for news. It’s not just us, it’s the families of the other two men who going through this too.
“I’m just sat here with everything going through my head wondering if I am going to get my boy back, if I am going to lay him to rest?
“I don’t know how to deal with it, the pain is so unbearable, I can’t describe it, it’s killing me.
“At the end of the day, we might not have had the perfect relationship but Carl’s my boy, my baby, he’ll always be my baby and I’m his mum.
“I’ve already lost one son and my other son is out there somewhere.
“Not knowing is the worst, the longer it goes on, the harder it is.”
Julie described Carl from Llandudno Junction as “well known, well liked and well respected” and said he’d built up a “really good reputation” in Conwy.
“Everyone’s been telling me he’s one of the best fishermen, it makes you proud as a mum.
“One of his nicknames was Grafter – he’s such a hard worker and has gone from a chef to a builder to a fisherman.
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“I saw him and the two other crew members the day before they went missing, I really hope that deep down, he knows I love him.
“I feel like I’m being ripped apart bit by bit, my heart and guts are ripped out more and more with every day that passes.
“Carl was my 7lb 11oz baby – I wish he was here now.
“All my children are my pride and joy but with Carl, I couldn’t be prouder seeing him turn his life around, set up a business and love what he’s doing.
“I can’t imagine not seeing him again, I can’t face losing another son at an early age when they haven’t even lived their lives.
“You hold your breath when you see the rescue crews going out and pray they’ll bring him back, but when they don’t, you get downhearted, we need news sooner rather than later, this is too much to bear.
“Just give me news, please I pray to God just give me my boy back, that’s all I want, I’m not ready to say goodbye.”
* A fundraising page for the RNLI, whose volunteers were heavily involved in searching, was set up by Carl’s sister, Lauren and has already raised almost £8,000.
To make a donation, visit the GoFundMe page here.
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