Sunday 25 August 2019

'People can't imagine what this feels like' - sister of woman last seen alive in 2005 makes emotional plea as searches continue

Lisa Dorrian
Lisa Dorrian

Brett Campbell

The sister of missing Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian has made an emotional plea for those who know where her body is buried to come forward and help police locate her remains.

Joanne Dorrian was speaking at a police press conference at Ballyhalbert Caravan Park as searches for her sister's body entered a second day.

Lisa was last seen alive at the caravan park on February 27 2005, police believe she was murdered and her body buried somewhere in the vicinity.

Nobody has ever been charged in connection with her murder.

Police search for Lisa Dorrian
Police search for Lisa Dorrian

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy is leading the investigation and said the searches had been prompted by "new information" but wouldn't be drawn further.

Joanne said that her family could never have imagined Lisa may be buried in the area.

"When Lisa first went missing we walked these fields, we thought we were just looking for her because she had just ran out in the night and she'd fallen and maybe just passed away in the cold," she said

"Obviously we then knew that the police were looking at it as a murder investigation.

"To think that Lisa could be here where we are today, it's just so hard to imagine. We're grateful for everything the police are doing to find Lisa and to give her what she deserves."

Joanne described the impact Lisa's disappearance had on the Dorrian family and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.

Police are undertaking a new search in relation to the murder of Lisa Dorrian
Police are undertaking a new search in relation to the murder of Lisa Dorrian

"People can't imagine what this feels like, they can't imagine what it feels like not knowing where she is," she said.

"My mum passed away a few years ago and she never got the answers that she needed. It has ruined her life and it has ruined our lives, none of us have been the same ever since this has happened.

"This is for Lisa, this is not for us. The people that know where she is knew Lisa and knew the kind of person that she was. They knew the funny person that she was and I'd just ask them to remember that and if they can come forward and help us to get some sort of peace, that's all that we can ask for."

Detective Superintendent Murphy said that he believed the answers to Lisa's murder "remained in Ballyhalbert".

More than 400 searches have taken place across Northern Ireland for Lisa's body, but police have decided to "refocus efforts locally on Ballyhalbert and events of the day she disappeared".

Detective Superintendent Murphy said the new searches had been prompted by technological advances and new information provided to police.

Almost two-dozen specially trained officers arrived in Ballyhalbert yesterday morning to pursue a major line of enquiry.

An operations trailer equipped with computers and a mapping suite has been set up in a car park area beside the disused airfield.

A buggy will also allow officers to access marshy ground behind the caravan park.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation into Lisa's disappearance in 2005, said a number of other areas will be searched in the coming days.

"The determination of the PSNI to bring those who killed Lisa Dorrian to justice is as strong today as it has ever been," he said.

"The purpose of the search operation is two-fold: firstly, I want to recover Lisa's body and allow the Dorrian family to finally put Lisa to rest.

"And, secondly, I am looking for evidence relating to her disappearance."

The senior officer described the relationship between police and Lisa's family as very positive and confirmed that they were notified in advance of the planned search and have been updated on the current position of the investigation.

Police believe Lisa was secretly buried by two men known to each other, only one of whom was known to Lisa.

Earlier this year DS Murphy revealed that he believes the killer and his accomplice share a close "bond" which is why they have not given each other up.

"I firmly believe that the answers to Lisa's disappearance lie with a small number of people," he said. "They may believe that they are bound by a common bond and have maintained their silence as a result. That silence will be a heavy and lifelong burden. We can help to unlock that burden, but we cannot do so whilst they remain silent."

One theory is that the killer summoned his father to help transport Lisa's body in a car before she was buried near the spot where she vanished.

Security sources do not believe the murder was premeditated, meaning that her disappearance was rushed.

However, the initial police investigation focused on a group of criminals who Lisa owed money to, allowing the real killer and his accomplice time to cover their tracks and remove DNA traces.

The last person to see Lisa alive in February 2005 was Mark Lovett, then 17 years old.

He told police that he and Lisa fled the caravan where they were partying after hearing noises and seeing flashing lights outside.

No one has been charged with the 25-year-old's murder.

Police have pursued more than 3,500 lines of enquiry and carried out almost 400 searches.

Extensive air, water and land searches around Ballyhalbert, including the use of underwater search teams, failed to yield results in 2005.

A 2012 search of land owned by Jimmy Seales in Comber - who was convicted of an unrelated killing - also proved futile despite information that a vehicle used in Lisa's disappearance had ended up in landfill there.

A 2016 search for the missing shop worker focused on another area of farmland just outside Comber. It was launched after police received fresh information about the murder and saw specialist teams being brought in to look for human remains, however nothing was found. A number of items were removed for further examination but were of no assistance in the probe.

Lisa's father John and sisters Joanne and Michelle have always vowed to never give up looking for her and renewed their resolve following the death of her mum Patricia, in 2015. "We are confident in the investigation and its ability to find Lisa," they previously said.

"The people responsible for hiding my sister's body should know that we will never give up on Lisa, she is too precious.

"We will campaign until the day she is found and can be laid to rest with our mum."

Belfast Telegraph

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