Source: The Daily Mail
At the height of his high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled days in the SAS, John McAleese was said to know no fear and feel no pain.
Never was this more evident than on May 5, 1980, when his black-clad, masked figure was seen by millions of television viewers clambering across the elegant cream stucco-fronted balcony of the Iranian Embassy in Kensington, blowing out the windows with explosives before storming the building with three colleagues and freeing the terrorist-held hostages inside.
But nearly 30 years later, the SAS hero – who Margaret Thatcher once said made her ‘proud to be British’ – was a shadow of his former self when he walked behind his son’s coffin at Hereford Cathedral.
Grey-haired, red-eyed, pain etched across his weathered face, Mac, as he was known to his family and friends, was reeling from the body blow dealt by the loss of his son, Paul McAleese, who had devotedly followed him into the Army, and paid with his life in 2009 when he was killed by a Taliban road-side bomb in Helmand, Afghanistan.
In the two years that followed, McAleese came undone.
Having hardened his heart to fight undercover in places such as Northern Ireland and the Falklands, the loss of Paul, says his family, devastated his life.
And when the 62-year-old died of a suspected heart attack in Thessalonika in Greece last weekend, he was a broken man — the triumphs of his early career overwhelmed by the tragedy of his later life.
‘I only ever saw my father cry once,’ says his 28-year-old daughter Hayley, speaking for the first time about the double tragedy.
‘And that was at my brother’s funeral.
‘He was so strong. We never, ever saw him upset. Seeing him break down like that was heartbreaking. I thought he was invincible.’