Police are following “new lines of enquiry” into the murder of Ballykelly teenager Jonathan Cairns, a move welcomed by the 18-year-old’s heartbroken family.
The disclosure follows a more than three-hour long meeting between Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, who is leading the enquiry, and the Cairns family at their home in Ballykelly on Monday.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’, DCI McVea said a social media campaign - ‘Justice for Jonathan Cairns’ - had regenerated people’s interest.
“It has brought information that previously hadn’t been known,” DCI McVea. “The Facebook page and social media have regenerated people’s committment in the campaign to get justice for Jonathan. At the time, the whole community was behind the family. Jonathan was a nice young fellow, and people are understandably keen to help and, through Facebook and social media, it’s easy for them to get in touch.”
Jonathan Cairns - known as ‘Johnny Bap’ to his friends - was last seen by his parents standing at a chip shop with his friends in Ballykelly in the early hours of April 25, 1999. 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 clothes were found 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.
There are people who used to be in relationships who are no longer in those relationships and, therefore, are not under their partner’s control, and we are keen to speak with them.DCI McVea
“There are people out there who know what happened, or who were directly involved, and we need those people to come forward to police,” said DCI McVea. “Listening to the family there have been a lot of changes in Ballykelly in the last number of years. There are people who used to be in relationships who are no longer in those relationships and, therefore, are not under their partner’s control, and we are keen to speak with them.”
DCI McVea paid tribute to the Cairns family for their support over the years, describing them as a “tremendous family”.
Jonathan’s father, Raymond said the family were encouraged by the meeting with DCI McVea. He stressed the £30,000 reward for information leading to the kiler, or killers is still being offered.
Raymond and Hazel Cairns are adamant someone out there knows exactly what happened the night their “always smiling”, “quiet” son Jonathan was murdered, and hope they will “do the right thing” and come forward to police.
Information can be given on the police non-emergency number, 101, or by calling the Crimestoppers Charity anonymously on 0800 555 111.
DUP MLA George Robinson attended Monday’s meeting.
“I was struck by the dignity of the Cairns family after the 16 years since Jonathan’s death. It was also very evident that for the family to have any form of closure it is essential that the perpetrators are caught and put behind bars. I would sincerely hope that can be achieved,” said Mr Robinson.
“This has been a long standing investigation and I would appeal to anyone with information regarding this heinous crime, to pass that information to the authorities in any way they can be that by telephone, email or letter. I will continue to support the family in whatever way I can to reach a conclusion to Jonathan’s murder”.