Eamon Johnston, the winner of Mr Gay Derry 2003, has committed suicide. He was 22.

His body was discovered on Wednesday and he was pronounced dead at Altnagelvin hospital.

Mr Johnston was a hairdresser and support counsellor for gay group Rainbow Project.

Rainbow Project member David Cartney told Belfast Today

“The event has sent waves of shock throughout both the gay and wider community, many of whom are struggling to understand what is happening.”

The Foyle branch of Rainbow Project cancelled holiday arrangements yesterday to mourn Mr Johnston and to provide support for anyone who needed to talk.

His mother told Derry Journal that her son was a “lovely wee boy” and appealed to other suicidal people to seek help instead of taking their lives.

“The news has completely turned my life upside down. This is the worst thing that can happen to a mother. Eamon was the last person you would expect to commit suicide.”

Mr Johnston’s best friend told the paper: “Eamon helped me through my own battle with suicidal thoughts over the last few months. I had no idea he was going through the same thing himself.”

Four years ago Mr Johnston told local press after winning Mr Gay Derry:

“I was pretty nervous about the Gay UK thing…my feeling now is this; you have to be seen out there; you can’t hide in a corner or we’ll never get anywhere.”

Mr Johnston’s death is the eighth suicide of a young person in Derry in the past few months.

A spokesperson for Police Service of Northern Ireland told Belfast Today that they are investigating the death but a crime is not suspected.

Tributes have been paid to Mr Johnston on his bebo site.

His funeral will be held on Sunday morning at 11am after Mass at St Colomba’s Church, Long Tower.