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Heartbreak for Dean McIlwaine's family as body found on Cave Hill

Dean McIlwaine's mother Karen, father Rod and partner Demi-Jo. Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Dean McIlwaine's mother Karen, father Rod and partner Demi-Jo. Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan Dean McIlwaine's mother Karen, father Rod and partner Demi-Jo. Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

THE family of Dean McIlwaine have spoken of their heartbreak and how they now "have him back" after his body was discovered during a search of Cave Hill at the weekend.

An aunt of the 22-year-old Newtownabbey man, whose disappearance on July 13 led to a massive hunt across the city, thanked the hundreds of volunteers who had helped on Saturday during the search of the north Belfast country park.

On Monday afternoon police formally confirmed the body found was Dean's.

Kim Malone described her nephew as a "loving, talented, hard working young man".

"I'm sure by now most of you are aware Dean was found yesterday. It wasn't unfortunately the outcome we had hoped and prayed for but we have him back," Mrs Malone said in a social media post on Sunday.

"To say Karen, Rod and Glen, Demi Jo, Steph and the entire family are heartbroken is an understatement.

"Dean was a loving, gorgeous, talented, hard-working young man who had everything going for him – what a waste of his precious life our family will never be the same without you Dean.

"We love you with all our hearts. Rest easy son. God bless. See you on the other side."

Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan Hundreds of volunteers gathered at Cavehill Park in Belfast to help search for missing Newtownabbey man Dean McIlwaine. Picture by Justin Kernoghan

A funeral director from Shankill Road, Stephen McCosh, last night offered to take care of the burial arrangements without charge.

The popular young barber was due to open his own business within weeks.

His parents, Karen and Rodney, issued an emotional plea last week for him to come home while his brother Glen said he idolised him.

Mr McIlwaine was last seen in the Carnmoney Road area of Newtownabbey.

Police carried out extensive searches for him and released CCTV footage taken on the day he went missing as they appealed for information on his whereabouts.

During Saturday's search, hundreds of people including members of the public, the Northern Ireland Land Rovers Club, Belfast City Council and Belfast Hill members turned out.

Mrs Malone said the family were overwhelmed by the response.

She added: "Can we just thank the police, Shaun from the search and rescue team, Paul McCusker and Bronagh from the Belfast City Council teams, Kay Tourist who works with the homeless and every single person who has shared our posts, prayed with us and searched with us, gave us the shirts, made posters for us.

"Tesco's Northcott for sending food. Bellevue taxis for giving free taxis to the search point and mostly Davy McCrum who brought him back to us.

"It has been absolutely unbelievable. I'm sure I've missed someone out but from the bottom of our hearts we thank every single person."