GILLIAN Molyneux is a woman coming to terms with the ultimate tragedy.
Just a week ago, her husband was preparing for a routine visit to his submarine, HMS Astute, at Southampton docks by civic dignitaries and schoolchildren.
In the space of a few tragic moments, the 36-year-old dad lay dead from a gunshot wound, a crew mate was injured and an able seaman had been arrested on suspicion of murder.
Today, his widow spoke proudly of a man who, despite a demanding career, always put his family first.
At home in Kells Grove, Springfield, Wigan and Leigh College sports lecturer Gillian said: “Ian never put his own needs first. He was always more concerned that the children and I were okay. He was completely dedicated to the Navy and loved everything about his job; he really believed in everything he did with the Navy.”
Ian was born at Sharoe Green Hospital in Preston, and grew up in Eccleston, Chorley, where he attended Leyland St Mary’s High School.
Despite showing a talent for architecture, Ian chose to join the Royal Navy at the age of 16, and he has worked his way up through the ranks during the 20 years he spent in the Forces.
Gillian said: “Ian had a real talent for architecture, and had even drawn some quite detailed plans for a house he wanted to build, but in his latter years at school he decided he wanted to move away from home and travel, so that’s where the Navy came in.
“The Navy was Ian’s first love, he believed in everything it stood for.”
The couple met in 1996, when they were both 22, in the Springfield Hotel, where Ian’s dad, Jim, was the manager. Ian was on leave from the Navy.
Gillian said: “The first time we met it wasn’t love at first sight because we actually had a heated discussion. I was thinking about joining the Navy at the time, and I was very passionate about a female’s role in the Navy.
“Ian said women would never serve on a submarine and I strongly disagreed, but a couple of days later we started going out and that was it really.”
In 1997, the couple had their first child, Jamie, now 13, followed by Arron in 1999, and in 2000 they got married at St Joseph’s Church in Wrightington, they since had two more children, Bethany, six, and Charlie, three.
Although Gillian knew that Ian was in the Navy when she met him, she says you cannot really prepare yourself for how difficult it will be not to see your partner for months on end.
She said: “Even though you know what you are getting into, it doesn’t make it any easier, and it became even more difficult when the children came along, both practically and emotionally.
“It was difficult to know what he was missing out on in the children’s lives and he struggled with that, but he knew it was a sacrifice he had to make.
“When he was home we made the most of the time we had together, and would try to get away as much as we could and two years ago, we went on holiday to Disney Land, Paris, which was a really enjoyable and memorable holiday for the children.
“Ian never once told me that he was homesick, which I think now he did to protect us. He would always put our welfare before his own.”
She added: “At one time we had no contact with Ian for nine months, because he was on his way home from a mission and was called back out because it was at the time that Saddam Hussain was overthrown.”
At least twice a week Gillian, the children or another family member would write a letter to Ian, even though they would never get a response.
She said: “It was important that we kept sending Ian letters, even though he couldn’t reply because it was crucial that he knew everything was okay at home, so he could focus fully on the mission in hand.
“He kept every single letter he was ever sent since we were 22, and there is a massive kitbag full of thousands in the loft.”
FULL INTERVIEW IN THE WIGAN EVENING POST (FRIDAY) ...