TEN years ago John Muir’s life was changed forever with the loss of his beloved son Damian.

The 34-year-old was stabbed to death in Greenock in a senseless unprovoked attack which shocked the whole of Inverclyde and sparked a national debate on knife crime.

Popular Damian, an amateur footballer, was making his way home from a night out when a chance encounter in Inverkip Street with evil thug Barry Gavin claimed his life.

Gavin, then 21, was out on bail at the time, having been charged with no fewer than three separate assaults.

Yet he was free to walk the town late at night and brutally stab Damian eight times, simply because his victim couldn’t answer when he had asked him the time.

John, 78, says it sometimes seems like yesterday when he received the devastating news every parent would dread, and told the Tele that Damian’s murder is a burden that is always there for his whole family.

He said: “It’s 10 years — a decade. It’s a long time.

“I remember that morning just like yesterday but it also seems like a long time ago.

“It’s never gone away. As a family we’ve always had the hardship of knowing it happened.”

John still cherishes a book of condolence which was compiled by Damian’s colleagues at IBM in the aftermath of his death in July 2007, pictured below inset.

He said: “There were people who played football with him.

“His workmates were all nationalities, and the messages would bring tears to a glass eye.”

John, who’s married to May, 79, and has four other children — Victoria, Christopher, Stephen and Karin — plus seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, can still recall the horrible moment he discovered his son was dead.

It was the morning afterward before they realised what had happened.

He said: “It was a surreal situation.

“I dropped my wife and her friend off in Greenock on Saturday morning just after 10.30am and I went off to play golf.

“Two plain-clothed policewomen said they wanted to speak to me and asked me to look at a photograph.

“They said there was an incident in Inverkip Street and the person in the photograph did not survive their injuries.

“The first thing I though was ‘why? Why us?’

“Then I clammed up.”

John and his son Christopher had to attend a mortuary in Glasgow to formally identify Damian.

He said: “I’ll never forget it.

“People ask you questions about it. The hardest part to come to terms with was sitting in a two-seater wicker settee in front of a screen then, after identifying Damian, coming home.

“On television there are white sheets and fresh flowers in the room.

“This room was as bare as you could possibly get it.

“Sadly we are not the only family who have had to go through that situation.

“I came back from Glasgow to break the news to Mrs Muir, and fortunately one of our family friends was with her.

“There were no great tears or roars. There was cold acceptance of what happened — a big, deep breath in and then moving forward to get something done.”

John praised the police for their response, one which quickly led to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of Gavin.

He said: “This is where the police come into their own.

“We couldn’t have asked for more assistance than they had to offer.

“They were brilliant to us.”

Amid the Muir family’s overwhelming grief, the tragedy was soon to propel John into the spotlight as he courageously turned his loss into a fight for justice, not only for Damian but also for others whose lives had been claimed by the terrible blade culture which scars our streets.

He bravely launched a campaign against knife crime in conjunction with the Greenock Telegraph and wider community, one which he took to the very heart of parliament.

He proposed ‘Damian’s Law’ a tough sentencing crackdown on knife carriers, and tirelessly gathered 20,000 signatures which he brought in front of MSPs at Holyrood.

His bold bid to change the law was narrowly defeated in 2010 but he won the respect of everyone who listened to him, becoming a national anti-knife crime figurehead.

Along the way, he helped close a dangerous loophole in the law on knives, was crucial in bringing a Scottish Government education initiative to Inverclyde before anywhere else, and was a huge influence on the groundbreaking Inverclyde Initiative diversionary programme working with young people and warning them of the dangers of knife crime.

There were countless visits to schools and prisons across the country as Mr Muir tried to drum home the deadly consequences of knife carrying.

His tireless work was recognised when he was awarded an MBE, but John says he wishes he had never had to step into the limelight, and that he would happily be anonymous in return for having his son back.

Mr Muir also credits the people of Inverclyde with playing a huge role in helping him along the way.

He said: “We as a family have been put in this position.

“Everyone agrees that it is a terrible thing to happen to any family.

“What helped us was the local population, the people of Inverclyde.

“They couldn’t have been more supportive.”

A decade on from the tragedy which hit his family, John says he thinks about that terrible night often — and how things could have been different.

He said: “Damian’s death could have been prevented.

“The person who killed him had been taken to court for bottling someone, let out on bail, did it again and then four months later Damian was dead.

“He said Damian ‘was in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

“He wasn’t.

“If that guy had been in jail, Damian would have been saved.”

John says the family have nothing planned to mark today’s sad anniversary, other than a quiet gathering together in one of his family’s homes.

He said: “The first two Christmasses and his birthday felt very hollow.

“On our first Christmas without him I sent a text to everyone saying, ‘today would have been a normal day for Damian’.

“It’s changed my life forever but we still function as a family, and on his anniversary and birthday we remember him in our own ways.

“We go to the cemetery on a regular basis and will continue to do so until there is no-one above ground to do it.”

John is sure that Damian would have been pleased at what he has achieved by bringing knife crime into the spotlight and winning the respect of everyone in his campaign to bring change, help other families who have suffered, and to save lives.

He also says he will never forget his son, or the positive outlook on life that he had, and which he was well known for amongst his many friends.

John said: “I think he would be quite proud.

“Damian was popular and he was always a person that looked forward and saw things nicely but alas it wasn’t to be.”