The West

The popular Perth schoolgirl who grew up to become a vivacious, fun-loving woman who "lit up a room" was remembered by her many friends yesterday.

As Jill Meagher's loved ones tried to come to terms with the heartbreaking nature of her death - just weeks before her 30th birthday - those who knew her paid tribute to the funny, kind and much-loved woman.

Born in the small industrial port town of Drogheda in Ireland on October 30, 1982, Ms Meagher moved to Australia with her brother Michael and parents George and Edith McKeon when she was nine.

During the six years she spent in Perth she attended Bull Creek Primary School and Rossmoyne High School, making many friends whom she remained close to after her family returned to Ireland in 1996.

One of those was Perth builder Matthew Griffiths, 33, whose family lived two doors from the McKeons in Bull Creek.

"Our families are very close, we grew up in a cul-de-sac where everyone was friends. We all played together in the street as kids and I stayed close friends with Jill and Michael over the years," he said.

"This is just tragic, it's the worst news. I kept hoping every time I woke up this week that there would be good news. Jill was just the most beautiful soul, she was nice to everyone she met and she wouldn't hurt a fly."

Ms Meagher's parents returned to Perth, where they still live, in 2004 but she stayed in Ireland where she studied for a Bachelor of Arts degree at University College Dublin, working in the student bar during her studies, before finishing several higher diplomas in project management and event management.

It was at UCD where Ms Meagher met her future husband, Tom, who was the constant by her side as she travelled overseas and worked various jobs in television, fashion and the arts in both Dublin and Australia.

Mr Griffiths attended their 2008 wedding in Wicklow, Ireland, and said they were a couple very much in love. "They were such a great couple, they never had a problem," he said.

"They always looked after me every time I went to Melbourne."

He said the bond between Ms Meagher, her parents and her brother, who was at Mr Meagher's side in court yesterday and has been a constant source of support, was also very strong.

"She was a beautiful person and her family are exactly the same. They're a great Irish family - an Australian family now," he said.

Mr Griffiths said the couple had enjoyed their life in Melbourne, where they moved in 2009, and made trips back to Perth to see Ms Meagher's family, most recently when she cut short a holiday in Ireland after her father suffered a stroke.

Mr and Mrs McKeon flew to Melbourne from Perth on Thursday night. They settled in Attadale after returning to Perth in 2004.

Mr McKeon worked as a financial investigator and was a registered liquidator with MK Corporate Services. He is now involved in an investment company, in which his co-directors are his brother and his two children.

Ms Meagher's brother Michael recently returned to Perth after living in Canada.

Perth woman Tanya Hallett became friends with Ms Meagher during primary school through their shared passion for drama and performing arts.

"She was really into drama, we used to do different plays together through school," she said.

"She was such a vivacious girl, really bright, bubbly and so gorgeous. I've got lovely memories of her.

"Her birthday was near Halloween so we'd always go to her house and dress-up . . . just the things you do when you're younger. I always wished I'd bump into her, or catch up with her again.

"Her family are so lovely, I can't imagine what they are going through."

Ms Meagher's family in Ireland and her ABC radio colleagues in Melbourne where she worked as a unit co-ordinator, described their grief yesterday after her body was found.

Uncle Michael McKeon, speaking from Ireland, said the family was "devastated and heartbroken".

"She was the first grandchild my mother had, and all her aunties, uncles and cousins are powerless to describe their loss," he said.

He acknowledged the role social media had played in the search, but said it wasn't the outcome they had hoped for.

"We thank the people around the world who have helped support us," he said. "Both the McKeon and Meagher family will have to plan now to grieve for Jillian.

"This is going to be one of the greatest, hardest things given that only three years ago we came together for the marriage of this lovely couple."

ABC radio host Jon Faine told listeners that the death of their colleague touched a raw nerve.

"Its randomness is what is so incomprehensible about it," he said, at times holding back tears.

"There's a very empty space in our office this morning. The ripples of Jill's abduction and, as we have now learned, allegations of rape and murder . . . extend right throughout the community."

ABC local radio content manager Cath Hurley said Ms Meagher always remembered when it was someone's birthday.

Her friends were looking forward to celebrating Ms Meagher's 30th birthday in just a few weeks. "Jill was a positive life force . . . she lit up a room," Ms Hurley said.

The West Australian

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