Northern Ireland

‘I want them to feel uncomfortable’ - Father of missing Holywood man calls on witnesses to break their silence ahead of his son’s 40th birthday

Holywood man Martin Kelly has been missing for 11 years
Martin Kelly from Holywood would have turned 40 on Thursday. He was last seen in the docks area of Belfast on New Year's Day, 2006.

THE 40th birthday of a missing Holywood man should be an “uncomfortable” reminder to those who might be concealing information about his death, his father has said.

Martin Kelly from Kinnegar Drive was 21-years-old when he was last seen alive outside Pat’s Bar in the docks area of Belfast on New Year’s Day, 2006.

His father Raymond has relentlessly campaigned for answers ever since.

Not convinced his son drunkenly fell into the River Lagan, he believes he was murdered and that those who know the truth won’t come forward.

Speaking to the Irish News ahead of what would have been his son’s 40th birthday on Thursday, he remains angry at the lack of progress on the case.

Martin’s remains have never been found despite several land and sea searches and an anonymous tip-off to the Missing People national helpline in June 2020.

Martin had worked as a plumber and part-time in the Priory Inn in Holywood, where he had drinks with friends on New Year’s Eve in 2005 before going to two house parties.

The following day he went to watch a football match with friends at the now-closed Pat’s Bar on Garmoyle Street, near the Belfast docks, at 2pm.

No evidence of foul play has ever been confirmed, but police last issued an appeal for information in 2020.

Detectives had said they were keen to speak to some of the people who had contact with him before his death.

Raymond Kelly at a bench placed at Pollock dock at the spot where his son Martin Kelly was last seen on the 1st January 2006. File picture by Colm O'Reilly
Raymond Kelly at a bench placed at Pollock dock at the spot where his son Martin Kelly was last seen on the 1st January 2006. PICTURE: COLM O'REILLY

“There’s people out there that know what happened and haven’t come forward,” said Mr Kelly.

He believes this includes two young women who were in the Priory on New Year’s Eve 2005 and were overheard discussing that “two men were going to get Martin”.

A witness later claimed he had spoken to the same women in St Colmcille’s Church in Holywood, where they had been praying for Martin after his disappearance.

Following the anonymous tip-off to the Missing People line in 2020, Mr Kelly said he was told the caller had given a name to police they needed to contact for answers.

He was not convinced by police assurances the call had been properly investigated and referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman.

“There is a high probability that Martin was murdered, based on the information of these two young women,” he said.

Mr Kelly said he also had questions about suggestions his son had borrowed a second phone while at Pat’s Bar.

When his friends left for Holywood in two taxis, he said his son had taken a call on the borrowed phone.

Mr Kelly said his son then moved tables and chairs so that he could leave by a side door.

“So what was the reason for that phone call? It was very concerning that a lot of the things regarding this were not taken seriously by the police.”

He claimed police had also told him it was up to him to find the two young women.

“People in this town have told me that certain people are very irritated every time this story appears in the papers,” he said.

“What I’m trying to do is keep the pressure on people that know things.

“That’s the way it is. It’s dark, it’s seedy. People out there don’t like to see the story at Christmas time or New Year’s.

“Their mouths are zipped…but I want this being talked about in the pubs. I want to make the people trying to avoid it feel uncomfortable, that’s my plan and it always has been.”

A PSNI spokesperson said: “The investigation into the disappearance of Martin Kelly, who went missing from Belfast in January 2006, remains open.

“Anyone with information can contact police detectives at Musgrave on 101, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”