THE family of Karen Coyles have paid a heartfelt tribute to a “beautiful, talented and beloved daughter” after it was confirmed at the weekend that a body found off the west coast of Scotland is that of the missing Ballycastle woman.
Preparations were being made to bring the remains of the 47-year-old back to the province following a painstaking two-week search along the north Antrim coastline and at sea.
On Saturday evening, Ms Coyles’ relatives were informed that it was the University of Ulster, Coleraine, worker’s body which was recovered by police on the Mull of Kintyre on Thursday.
The identification process, which they had not expected to be concluded until later this week, is believed to have progressed quicker following representations made by local politicians to the Scottish authorities.
The keen sportswoman had been missing since Sunday, September 11.
Her car was found outside a camogie club in Ballycastle shortly after 7.30am the following day.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Strathclyde police have confirmed that a body found off the coast of Kintyre is that of Karen Coyles. Police are not treating her death as suspicious.”
Karen lived on her own and was one of four sisters from a close-knit family.
Their father Rab was described as “devastated”. Their mother is deceased.
In a statement, Ms Coyles’ family said: “We are devastated at the loss of a beautiful, talented and beloved daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and friend but are comforted in the knowledge that Karen is now safe in the arms of her beloved mother and will always and forever be in our hearts.”
Relatives also expressed their gratitude to all those who assisted in the major search operation.
“We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the people and businesses of Ballycastle and the surrounding areas and in particular the GAA community, who came out in their hundreds to help search for Karen.”
Ballycastle Camogie Club also issued a statement thanking those who came out to search.
Prof Hugh McKenna of the UU said: “She was a highly-valued, popular and respected member of staff who made an excellent contribution to the work of the School of Biomedical Sciences Research Institute.”
Staff from Ballycastle Community Mental Health Team were offering support at the weekend to anybody involved in the search and support efforts.
Sean McCarry, from the Community Rescue Service, who led the search and has been in constant contact with the Coyles family over the past fortnight, praised the “dignity” with which they have dealt with the tragedy.
“The family were very well prepared for the news. After a number of days they realised the chances of finding Karen alive were diminishing,” he said.
“Obviously it was still a shock and was very difficult to take in – but it was not unexpected.”
Personnel from the Community Rescue Service continued their search for Ms Coyles up until the official confirmation.
“There was a slim chance that the body that was found may not have been Karen,” Mr McCarry said.
Ms Coyles, a renowned camogie player, led her local team to victory in an All-Ireland tournament in Dublin – as goalkeeper and captain – on the weekend before her disappearance.