Northern Ireland news

Man (49) arrested on suspicion of murder in Jonathan Cairns case

Jonathan Cairns who was attacked and beaten to death as he made his way home from a night out 20 years ago in Derry. 

A man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of a teenager 20 years ago in Co Londonderry.

Jonathan Cairns, 18, was killed in the early hours of April 25 1999 after being attacked on his way home from a night out in Ballykelly.

His body was found in a shallow grave in Loughermore Forest following a search.

The 49-year-old suspect was detained in the Coleraine area on Wednesday morning.

He was detained on suspicion of murder, withholding information and perverting the course of justice.

It is the fourth arrest related to the case in the last month.

In November, a 44-year-old woman arrested in Dungiven on suspicion of murder was released on bail pending further police inquiries.

Days later, two men aged 51 and 43 were arrested in Limavady and Ballykelly on suspicion of withholding information.

They were also subsequently released on police bail.

A man was previously jailed for helping to dispose of Mr Cairns's body but no-one has ever been convicted of his murder.

In April, Mr Cairns's family made a renewed appeal for information to mark the 20th anniversary of his death.

In April, 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.

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.

Police believe Mr Cairn's killers were local to the area and may even have known their victim. 

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