Cameron Reilly murder investigation hit by 'gang threats and intimidation'
One month after young student's killing in a field in Dunleer, Gardai issue a fresh appeal for witnesses to come forward
The wall of silence surrounding the murder of Cameron Reilly that persists a month after his death has been blamed on the intimidation of teenagers and their families by drug dealers with dissident republican links.
The body of the 18-year-old business student was found in a field in Dunleer, Co Louth, on May 26, the morning after he had been drinking there with teenage friends.
He had been beaten and strangled in an attack that gardai suspect may have been witnessed by a number of teenagers.
Hopes of a swift arrest soon evaporated as it became apparent to detectives that information was being withheld.
The silence has fuelled fears that the gangs who supplied the teens that night have been intimidating them to prevent their drugs rackets from being exposed.
Cameron Reilly’s grieving family marked his month’s mind in Dunleer last night, as rumour and speculation about his murder continued within the community.
Last week, posts on a Facebook page called ‘Justice for Cameron’ assured those with information that they will be protected if they came forward.
“We, the community, are behind you all, we will protect you,” it says.
“If you are afraid, I myself will protect you as I am not afraid of that piece of s*** that is threatening you and your family, f*** him he is nobody.”
Separately, Hugh D Conlon, a community representative on the Ardee Mid Louth Joint Policing Forum, said he believes the intimidation — and the fear it has engendered in the community — is genuine.
“It has been three weeks and we are into the fourth week. We feel genuinely that we cannot move on as a society, or a community until the killer or killers are brought to justice. I think in the end that will come to the fore.
"I think there is a quiet confidence that the young people will eventually say what they know. Even with the intimidation, that will happen in the end."
Gardai are sceptical. Detectives have no evidence that potential witnesses to Cameron's murder are being intimidated, according to Garda sources. Nor have they received any complaints, formal or informal.
One source expressed doubts that this is in fact the reason why those suspected of having information about Cameron's murder may be withholding it.
"We were led to believe there was some sort of intimidation. But we have no statements from people," said one source.
"We sent out a message that we are not going to put up with that."
Intimidation and extortion has been a tactic increasingly used by local drug dealers as they exert control in rural communities in Louth.
Just four weeks before Cameron's death, gardai told community leaders and public representatives that families were "living in fear" of dealers, who were intimidating parents into paying their children's drugs debts.
Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan told the Louth Joint Policing Committee that gangs recruited people to sell or transport drugs, and when the drugs were lost or seized, they were required to pay compensation.
Even if families paid the gang, they were in a "no win" situation, as the intimidation and fear would not end. Gangs came back for more.
The policing forum was told that the intimidation was a particular problem in Ardee, a town just 11km from the quieter village of Dunleer, which like most other rural communities has seen a rise in drug use among its youth.
Gardai have already acknowledged that some of the teenagers at the field on the night of Cameron's death may have been taking drugs.
In an appeal to youths to come forward following his murder, Superintendent Andrew Watters said though they believed "there may have been drink and drugs used", that was not their primary concern.
Detectives have traced all the 20 or so youngsters, and most have made statements and volunteered phones and other devices to be examined by gardai. None of them have been able to shed light on what happened to him.
An 18-year-old male youth was arrested in Dunleer two weeks ago. He was questioned and later released without charge.
Fr Michael Murtagh, the parish priest of Dunleer, said: "I think at this stage it is probably a very small number of people who would have information of use to gardai. Most people have been co-operative and have come forward with anything that they know."
He added: "We need to allow the gardai to do their work and complete the investigation. I think that anything that is said irresponsibly will not just damage the investigation but might damage any prosecutions that might damage the investigation."
At Cameron's funeral in St Brigid's Church in Dunleer earlier this month, Fr Murtagh asked young people to reflect on what had happened, and if they had any information to come forward. He told mourners that Cameron was a "vibrant, generous and loving man".
Anyone with information can contact the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111.