Saturday 15 December 2018

'How could anyone who knew you hurt you?'

As his heartbroken family prepares to lay Cameron Reilly to rest, gardai turn to his pals for help to solve his murder, writes Maeve Sheehan

Cameron Reilly (18) was found dead in a field with serious neck injuries
Cameron Reilly (18) was found dead in a field with serious neck injuries
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Teenagers who were drinking with Cameron Reilly in the hours before he was beaten and strangled have handed in their phones to be examined by gardai investigating his murder.

They were among a group of up to 20 youngsters, many of whom have spoken to detectives in the past week, since the body of the 18-year-old student was discovered in a field close to his home in the village of Dunleer, in Co Louth.

Many of that group have surrendered their devices so that detectives can examine photos, videos, texts or WhatsApp messages exchanged on the night, according to one source.

As well as helping them trace Cameron's last movements, gardai hope that the content of the phones will help shed light on any arguments or confrontations that may have occurred that fateful night.

Gardai seal off the entrance to the fields in Dunleer, Co Louth. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Gardai seal off the entrance to the fields in Dunleer, Co Louth. Picture: Caroline Quinn

They believe the most crucial evidence is on Cameron's missing iPhone 8 - messages that may reveal the motive for his killing and whether he was lured to his death. Otherwise, why would it have vanished?

"It is obviously important because someone thought it necessary to take it from him," said one source. Cameron Reilly was the third young person to die a violent death in Leinster in a two-week period. Three weeks ago, on May 17, the battered body of Ana Kriegel (14) was found in a derelict farm building in Lucan, west Dublin, days after her parents reported her missing.

On May 19, 24-year-old Jastine Valdez was abducted in broad daylight in Enniskerry and murdered by Mark Hennessy, who was later shot by gardai.

Last weekend, seven days after Jastine's murder, a man out for an early Saturday morning walk with his dog came upon the body of Cameron in a field close to a housing estate on the outskirts of Dunleer.

Superintendent Andrew Watters shows a picture of the type of cover on Cameron’s phone, which may hold vital information
Superintendent Andrew Watters shows a picture of the type of cover on Cameron’s phone, which may hold vital information

He died a violent death. He had been beaten and serious injuries to his neck indicated he had been strangled.

For the second time in as many weeks, gardai are turning to a tight community of teenagers to help them solve a vicious crime.

Cameron lived in Dunleer with his grandparents. He had completed his first year of hospitality studies at Dundalk Institute of Technology. Summer stretched ahead. The day before he died he spent the day in Dundalk, and that night with a large group of local youths, drinking beer in the last rays of the sun.

He was very close to home. They were hanging out beside a field that was a popular gathering spot for teenagers, close to the housing estate where his grandparents live. They played music on "boom boxes" and danced.

"It was a lovely Friday evening. The sun was splitting the stones. The kids were buying drink and having fun," said one source.

Gardai have been told that the party broke up at around midnight. People drifted home. Others hung behind. Cameron was with a group that went to Enzio's takeaway, the local chip shop, a short stroll towards the village.

No one has been able to tell detectives what Cameron did next. Some have said he seemed to be heading for home, others that he returned to the field.

Gardai suspect that Cameron was killed after 12.30am. Detectives have found inconsistencies in some of the accounts they have been given.

They believe some of the youngsters there that night have yet to come forward. Superintendent Andrew Watters, who is leading the investigation, appealed to young people who may have been "taking drugs" on the night Cameron was killed not to be afraid to contact them: "I want to assure them that is not the focus of our investigation."

Rumours are "flying around" the village, according to one source. The CCTV from the chip shop suggests Cameron got into an argument outside the takeaway.

There were reports that he was killed in a "jealous rage" because of his friendship with a girl. There have also been reports that a teenage girl may have witnessed the beating and strangulation.

Gardai are "taking all the theories on board", say sources. The hunt for hard evidence continues. CCTV footage has been gathered from the many businesses close to the area where Cameron was killed.

His clothes are being examined in the hope that his killer, or killers, may have left traces of DNA. There has been an intensive search for Cameron's green and black hard-covered iPhone 8 which gardai believe was taken by his killer or killers and tossed away. The community was asked last week to check their wheelie bins and waste skips, before leaving them out to be emptied.

Yesterday, a 60-strong team of army, gardai and civil defence continued to search, concentrating on a reservoir drained of millions of litres of water. This weekend, the community of Dunleer pays its respects to this gentle boy under the cloud that his killer or killers could well be among them.

Cameron's body was released to his family, his heartbroken parents, Tracy and Patrick, his grandparents Rita and Joe Glass, late last week. His body lay in repose at Connors funeral home in the village yesterday and again today ahead of his burial on Monday at Mullary cemetery following Mass at St Brigid's church.

The stream of tributes on the Dunleer Parish Facebook page reflects the overwhelming fondness for Cameron, and disbelief and sadness at a life cut short. One woman wrote that he was "a lovely child" and "a fine young man".

Another woman had "fond memories" of a truly "lovely lad" who looked out for others. Another said she would never forget his "shy smile".

There was also anger towards those who harmed him. "Cameron - how could anyone who knew you hurt you? Cameron - how could anyone who knew you not come to your aid? Cameron - how could anyone leave a stone unturned in the hope of justice?" said one message. "Such a nice quiet young man," another man wrote.

"And for those people who have the answers to this shocking ordeal: When something is wrong, you know it's wrong, it will eat away at you, so do the right thing and come forward and let Cameron's family put him to rest."

Fr Michael Murtagh, parish priest of Dunleer, who knew Cameron as a "delightful kid", told the Sunday Independent that the community was reaching out to Cameron's family, "just surrounding them and encouraging them and reassuring them".

"The community is one that has not dealt with a situation like this, in my knowledge, ever before," he said. "We need to see justice and we need to see it done as quickly as possible.

"I would say the community are unsettled that we haven't seen a breakthrough yet but at the same time they are confident that the investigating gardai will get to the bottom of it."

"The longer it goes on, the more difficult it gets," said Hugh D Conlon, a former councillor and community representative.

"It is important for teenagers that whatever they may know, to come forward and say what they witnessed and what they heard."

Anyone with information is asked to contact Drogheda Garda Station on 041-9874200 or the Garda Confidential Line at 1800 666 111.

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News