Family of murdered Ballykelly teen Jonathan Cairns to meet with PSNI

Jonathan Cairns. INLV1112-245KDR
Jonathan Cairns. INLV1112-245KDR

The family of murdered Ballykelly teenager Jonathan Cairns have revealed they are to meet with police investigating their son’s brutal death following a renewed online appeal to catch those responsible.

The meeting follows a social media campaign seeking justice for the teenager which started sixteen years after his savage death.

It makes you feel that some good is coming out of the Facebook page, that Jonathan has never been forgotten

Hazel Cairns

The Cairns family have welcomed the meeting with the PSNI, which is due to take place in coming days.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Jonathan’s mother, Hazel. “It makes you feel that some good is coming out of the Facebook page, that Jonathan has never been forgotten and there is a wee bit of light, but we have to wait and hear what the police have to say. The meeting can’t come quick enough.”

The social media campaign via the Facebook page - Justice for Jonathan Cairns - features pictures of Jonathan from when he was a baby until his teenage years and a video showing the route Jonathan is understood to have taken the night he was murdered.

The page, started by a close family member and close friend of Jonathan’s, also features a series of newspaper clippings covering the murder which rocked the village in 1999. Reports from when the investigation was re-opened in 2012 also feature alongside television footage, and an appeal made on BBC Crimewatch UK.

Updating almost 5,000 people who have ‘liked’ the page, a post on Friday stated: “Again thanks for all the shares, likes and comments, everyone! Things are finally coming on, we have a meeting with the investigation team next week to discuss all the info recently collected and given by the public which we appreciate more than you can ever imagine. Thank you... Jonathan needs your help to finally get justice. Please do the right thing. Set yourself free from this once and for all, the whole community and further afield are behind you! Justice for Jonathan!!”

Jonathan Cairns was standing at the local chip shop with his friends in the Co. Derry village in the early hours of April 25, 1999. The 18-year-old smiled and waved to his parents as they drove past on their way home after a night with friends. It was the last time they saw their son alive.

Jonathan’s body was found in a shallow grave in Loughermore Forest, five miles from the family home where his parents still live. His bloodied clothing turned up, neatly folded, just yards from his home in the grounds of a local school.

One man, Philip Charles Joseph McGroarty from Ballykelly was sentenced to five years in 2002 when he was found guilty of helping to dispose of Jonathan’s body, but no-one has ever been convicted of his murder.

Hazel and her husband Raymond are adamant someone out there knows what happened to their son, and say a £30,000 reward for information leading to the kiler, or killers is still being offered.

“It’s good that the Facebook page has renewed people’s interest in what happened to Jonathan but, for us, it’s in our minds every minds,” added Hazel.

Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, who is leading the enquiry, said the investigation remained open.

In a statement to the ‘Journal’ in April, DCI McVea said: “Despite the length of time that has passed, we would still encourage anyone who has information that could help bring Jonathan’s killer, or killers, to justice to contact us.

“Jonathan died a violent death as a result of a vicious beating which went far beyond a drunken assault. I believe his killer or killers were local to Ballykelly and they might have known Jonathan. His parents still don’t know why he was attacked on his way home after a night out. They deserve an answer and they deserve justice for their son.”

Information can be given on the police non-emergency number, 101, or by calling the Crimestoppers Charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.