25 years on... teen's family reveal pain of brutal killing for first time
The family of a teenager battered to death while out celebrating a wedding 25 years ago have spoken of the trauma of having to regularly encounter his killers.
John Dinsmore was just 18 when he was set upon as he made his way home from the party in Coleraine 25 years ago today.
The teenager, described as “gentle” and “kind-hearted”, was attacked by a gang when he got separated from friends on a road between Bushmills and Coleraine.
He was left lying at the side of the road with horrific injuries and was accidentally struck by a car.
John’s family have never spoken publicly about the killing, but opened up their hearts on the anniversary of his death, saying that a quarter-of-a-century on their pain and suffering is just as raw as it was in 1987.
And that pain is compounded by the fact the family, who still live in Coleraine, say they often encounter some of those who were convicted of John’s manslaughter. According to the family, none of those convicted in relation to the death ever expressed remorse.
Five of the six convicted still live in the wider Coleraine area.
John’s father Bobby suffered a heart attack shortly after his son’s death and his wife Joan has never been able to bring herself to visit the grave of John, the youngest of the couple’s three children.
Bobby, who makes the trip to his son’s final resting place every day, said he has never got over the shock of having to identify his son’s battered body.
“We’ve never been able to speak about it before now because of the difficult circumstances,” he said. “But because it is the 25-year anniversary, we felt we wanted to let people know we’ve never gotten over it.”
Bobby (80) said he and Joan (76) are still haunted by visions of their son’s brutal death.
Six men were convicted in relation to the killing.
“John was a young man of 18 years of age and they took that from him for no reason,” said Bobby.
“There was no motive behind it. He was a lovely boy, with a very gentle, kind-hearted way about him. He was training to be a painter and decorator and was at a training school for that. He was just a fun, healthy boy.”
John’s sister Janice said the lives of her parents were destroyed by her brother’s death.
Of those who took the teenager’s life, Bobby said: “They don’t know what it has done to our family, what we’ve had to live with.
“The fear that he must have went through. That still tortures you, wondering about it and the fact he was out on a dark, lonely road and that he was on his own.”