Northern Ireland news

Father of Co Derry murder victim Jonathan Cairns issues new appeal on anniversary of murder

Detective Inspector Adrian Brown believes people in the Ballykelly community have vital information about the murder 20 years ago of teenager, Jonathan Cairns (18). Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Seamus McKinney

POLICE are seeking help to identify two young men they believe were involved in the murder of teenager, Jonathan Cairns 20 years ago.

The 18-year-old victim was attacked and killed as he made his way home from a night out in the early hours of Sunday April 25 1999.

His body was discovered in a shallow grave at Loughermore Forest close to his Ballykelly home. No-one has ever been convicted of the teenager's murder although a 49-year-old man was sentenced to five years in prison in 2002 for perverting the course of justice.

The two young men were seen near Ballykelly on the night he died.

Mr Cairn's father marked the 20th anniversary of his son's murder by making an emotional appeal for information. Raymond Cairns said his family has spent 20 years living without their "lovely son" and living without answers or justice.

"Jonathan was 18 when he died. He should now be 38, maybe with kids of his own. We think about him every day. He was always smiling, always happy.

"The people who did this took our son away from us and we don't know why. All of his family loved him and miss him so much. To anyone who has information, it's never too late to come forward. Please tell us what you know," Mr Cairns said.

Detectives opened a mobile police station in Ballykelly yesterday to facilitate the new appeal and a fresh search for information. Officers also handed out leaflets and carried out searches of the area.

PSNI Detective Inspector, Adrian Brown, who is heading the murder investigation, said more than 20 searches have been carried out in the last 20 years. Police have identified more than 2,500 witnesses in the case and taken almost 900 statements.

"For 20 years, Jonathan's family and friends have suffered intolerable grief," he said.

"Their son died a violent death as a result of a vicious beating and we understand their desire to see justice done. We are committed to doing all in our power to apprehend those involved in this brutal incident which went far beyond a drunken assault."

Police believe Mr Cairn's killers were local to the area and may even have known their victim. Mr Brown said people in the Ballykelly community have information which could help solve the case.

"Two men were seen in the area where Jonathan was assaulted on the Loughermore Road in the early hours of Sunday 25 April 1999. They have never come forward to speak to police despite numerous appeals which leads me to believe they were involved in the murder.

"They were in their early 20s, about 5 ft, 10 inches tall and one of them might have had auburn-coloured hair.

"Some people were not prepared to come forward at the time for a variety of reasons but we are asking people to search their conscience and think again. Circumstances and loyalties may have changed over the years and it is never too late to do the right thing," he said.

The detective inspector urged people with information to contact police or the Crimestoppers charity.

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