A HEARTBROKEN mum has paid tribute to her ‘magical’ son following his sudden death at the age of 38.

Darren O’Neill’s lifeless body was found in his flat on Dunlop Street, off Chester Road, last Wednesday, May 9.

Known as ‘Magic Darren’, the 38-year-old was a well-known and popular figure in the town, having worked in the entertainment industry as a magician for a number of years.

Speaking to the Warrington Guardian, his mum Donna said she felt lost after learning the tragic news about her ‘gentle and captivating’ son.

She said: “He was an off-the-wall kind of a person and he was larger than life.

“He was just magical – when he walked in a room, everyone knew who he was.

“It didn’t matter where I was with him, someone would always come up and say hello to Darren.

“I could be abroad with him and still someone would know him, but I never realised just how many people knew him until this happened – my phone hasn’t stopped ringing and it’s just incredible how many texts and phone calls I’ve had from people.

“Darren loved being loved, and he loved anyone spending time with him and chatting with him.

“He was a very kind-hearted and gentle person – he was the kind of person who would hate it if you swatted a fly.”

Warrington Guardian:

Donna O'Neill with her 'magical' son Darren.

Darren was also a professional golfer who played for Lancashire and held the course record at Blundells Hill Golf Club for three years.

The former St Gregory’s Catholic High School pupil’s golfing career inadvertently led to him becoming involved in magic.

Donna added: “A man knocked on my door one day when we lived in Woolston when Darren was about 14 and said that he should get a set of golf clubs.

“He said he had been hitting a few balls out on the field and Darren had come over with his friends and had a few shots, and the man said that he definitely had talent and could be a great golfer.

“Darren had got to a handicap of nine by the time he was 15, and by the end of that year he was down to a handicap of four – most men who play golf might get down to a handicap of eight or seven.

“Then one day a man walked into the golf club and taught him some magic, and he went from there.

“Some of his tricks were mind-blowing, and he knew how to draw in a crowd.

“He would walk into a room and somebody would say ‘give us a trick Darren’, and soon enough everyone would be crowded around that table watching his magic.”

Two days before his passing, Darren and Donna had spent a sunny bank holiday Monday together in Prestatyn.

She added: “We had a lovely day, and we talked a lot – he was only saying on that day that he wanted to open a memorabilia store.

“Darren’s walls at home are just full of memorabilia, from Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze to all of the different boxers.

“That was going to be our plan, and then this happened.

“I feel lost because it’s just tragic, but we want to make his funeral very upbeat because he was a very upbeat person.

“He had such a way with words, and he was just captivating.”

Warrington Guardian:

From left; Phil Jones, Donna O'Neill and Carmella Hollington-Vale.

CLOSE friends of Darren O’Neill say the death of the gifted magician, golfer, actor and arm wrestler is an ‘unfathomable loss to the town’.

Musician Phil Jones was a lifelong friend of Darren’s, with the pair having been friends since they age of nine when they met at Westbrook Old Hall Primary School.

Phil, who has previously written hits for artists including Atomic Kitten, said: “When Darren came away from golf, he pursued a fantastic career in magic – he was unbelievably gifted at it.

“He would blow people away with the kind of magic that you would only see the likes of David Blaine doing.

“I was there with him when he got his first magic set at 16, and he worked with a number of celebrities through both golf and magic.

“Darren was also a superb actor who could take on any role, and he was a champion arm wrestler as well – he was as strong as an ox.

“We have lost an unbelievably gifted and talented character.

“He was a kind, caring and affectionate person who would listen to people and try to sort out their problems whenever he could.”

Warrington Guardian:

Magic Darren with his lifelong friend Phil Jones.

Darren and Phil had hoped to become famous together and give talented performers in Warrington a platform to find their own success.

Phil added: “We are both involved in the entertainment industry and we had some massive plans for the future.

“The plan of action was that whichever one of us made it first would pool Warrington’s talent to work together.

“Both of us had had major successes in our lives and it was only a matter of time.

“We were stepping stones away and I will carry this work on in memory of Darren, but it’s going to be hard because he was my sidekick and he was my brother.

“The pair of us were going to embark on a new career and there’s no question that it would have taken off.

“It’s an unfathomable loss to this town and he will never be replaced, because there will be nobody like him again.

“He was the ultimate professional as an entertainer and the rest of the world is unfortunately not going to see that now.”

Carmella Hollington-Vale performed at countless events alongside Darren as a DJ.

She added: “He was just an amazing person and it’s very surreal to think that such a character has gone.

“He had a fantastic laugh and he would light up the room.

“It’s just tragic and there will be hundreds of people at his funeral because he was a very big character.”

Darren's funeral will take place at St Elphin's Church at 3pm on Monday, May 21.

The service will be followed by a cremation at Walton Lea Crematorium at 4.15pm, and a wake at Walton Hall Golf Club.