Hundreds attend vigil for tragic Christopher Meli
HUNDREDS of mourners braved the cold and wet weather to pay their respects to murder victim Christopher Meli at a candlelit vigil in west Belfast last night.
People packed into the Sliabh Dubh estate to light candles and release white balloons in memory of the 20-year-old father who was brutally attacked and killed in Twinbrook on the outskirts of west Belfast early on Saturday.
Some of the balloons had messages from Mr Meli's family and friends including: "Christopher RIP, love and miss you and sleep tight son".
Mourners gathered outside Mr Meli's family home as people paid their respects to his distraught parents Vanessa Burke and Christopher Meli Snr.
Some parishioners from Corpus Christi laid candles which spelt out Christopher's name and the Bible verse John 1:5, 'The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it'.
Corpus Christi parish priest Fr Darach Mac Giolla Catháin told mourners: "In the midst of Christopher's violent and tragic death we need our light to shine all the more brightly in the world at this time".
Mr Meli's parents wept and were comforted by family members as Fr Mac Giolla Catháin led the vigil.
"You mightn't have the words to say but simply being present here says everything," he said.
"It says to Christopher Snr and Vanessa we're here for you and we will be here for you.
"We're here for you in different ways: as a community here in Sliabh Dubh, as a parish of faith in Corpus Christi, as the wider community, each one of us who will be a light for the family at this time."
Candles being lit at Christopher Meli vigil pic.twitter.com/2H05ExF8qF— Claire Simpson (@ClaireMSimpson) December 14, 2015
Speaking afterwards, Mr Meli's friend Stacey Lundy said she was shocked by his killing.
"He was a lovely wee boy so he was," she said.
"He was always kind. He was harmless. He always cared for everyone, helped everyone out. And he was a brilliant Daddy.
"Look at the number of people here tonight. He was just a lovely boy. He wasn't a fighter.
"Leaving someone without a Daddy, that's rotten."
Several people even came from the predominantly unionist Shankill Road area of west Belfast to show their support.
Lillian Clark, her daughter Leanne Woods and their friend Janette, all from the Shankill, said they were appalled by the tragedy.
"We have young children. We would know what it's like for this to happen," Ms Clark said. "That's why we're all up here supporting this."