'His life can't be forgotten': Family pay tribute to Tattoo artist Aidan Mann as killer jailed

The heartbroken mother of Aidan Mann has paid tribute to the talented tattoo artist who she said had "the most soft soul". Bangor woman Sonya Mann attended court on Tuesday with other family members where they saw Aidan's killer jailed for a minimum of nine years. Speaking of the devastating impact Aidan's death has had on his loved ones, his family believe it could have been prevented.

Sonya said: "He was the most soft soul, he wouldn't hurt a living thing. "If he saw a wee bee struggling on the street, he would pick it up and look after it. He loved nature, he loved being outside and it gave him such inspiration for his artwork." The family have described Aidan as a talented tattoo artist and a self-taught sailor who built a boat from scratch and who enjoyed sailing on Strangford Lough and to the Copeland Islands.

Family's tribute to Aidan Mann

As Sonya recalled: "He loved being at sea, his heart belonged at sea."

Aidan was attacked in Downpatrick by Barry Donnelly, formerly of Church Street in the Co Down town. In an attack captured on CCTV Donnelly can be seen chasing down Aidan before stabbing him multiple times.

Donnelly, 38, who is currently housed in a secure unit at Knockbracken Healthcare Park, denied murdering Mr Mann but had pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and to possessing two large kitchen knives on the same date.

Aidan's grieving mother said Donnelly "stole my life when he killed my son. He chased my son down the street like an animal". "The fear my son must have felt and the suffering ... that will never ever leave me," she added. "I haven't watched any of the footage from that day but the thought of what happened never leaves me. It's in my brain morning, noon and night. "He (Donnelly) took everything. He took Aidan's dreams away from him, he took everything." Aidan's family are convinced he was attacked because of his appearance.

His younger brother Lewis, who has followed in Aidan's footsteps to become a tattoo artist, has a lasting reminder from his big brother in the form of artwork on his left arm which was done by Aidan the month before he was killed. He also revealed that Aidan was one of the only Tebori tattooists in Ireland - an ancient form of Japanese body art which uses special sticks as opposed to needles. Lewis said: "Aidan was different, he looked different and we believe he was killed because of the way he looked. We believe this 100%." Lewis also spoke of the upset felt when they learned his brother had expressed fear regarding his neighbour. Lewis said: "If I'd known that I would have gone to his flat and stayed over with him. He's only just moved to Downpatrick as the rent was cheaper. "We know there were a few incidents around New Year's Eve involving the police when Donnelly was banging on Aidan's floor and banging on his door. Why was nothing done then?" Aidan's uncle Graham, who also attended the sentencing, said: "Aidan was let down by the people who are supposed to enforce protection and after what we heard in court, it's not the first time Donnelly attacked people with weapons. He has a history for violence." His auntie Heather added: "There are so many knife crimes now in Northern Ireland and the justice system seems to be failing. "Maybe if we had stronger sentences for knife crimes, this may act as a deterrent." She added: "His life can't be forgotten, his voice can't be forgotten and we as a family will make sure Aidan will never be forgotten."

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