Christopher Meli murder: Teenagers charged with murder of father-of-one
Three teenagers have been charged with the murder of a father-of-one Christopher Meli, just hours after the west Belfast community united to show its revulsion at the brutal killing.
Christopher, 20, was beaten around the head on grassland in the Twinbrook area at the weekend.
Detectives believe up to 20 teenagers were involved in the attack.
The male accused - two aged 18 and one 16 - are due to appear in court in Lisburn on Tuesday morning.
Two other males - aged 18 and 17 - continue to be questioned by detectives about the assault.
Last night the parents of murdered Christopher Meli sobbed uncontrollably as a candlelit vigil of more than 300 people was told the west Belfast lad did not deserve to die.
Proceedings were halted at one point during the vigil outside the family home in Sliabh Dubh this evening as Christopher’s mum, Vanessa Burke, cried hysterically for a friend, Donna, to come to her side.
Christopher’s distraught father, Christopher Snr, clung onto his younger sons throughout the emotionally charged memorial, before thanking the crowds for turning out to pay their respects to his son.
Initial reports suggested Mr Meli had been stabbed, but police said he had been beaten to death by a gang of up to 20 people.
His body was found in the area of Glasvey Close in the Twinbrook estate in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Christmas lights on the outside of the Meli home were switched off tonight as scores of people went inside to offer their sympathies to the devastated family.
Outside, a crowd of more than 300 people packed in to the cul-de-sac. Young men stood together hugging and crying in the rain.
Some of the mourners held balloons with messages to Christopher written on them.
After an address by the parish priest, Fr Darach Mac Giolla Cathain, a family friend stepped forward and said: “Christopher was a very good boy, he didn’t deserve what he got.
“Please release your balloons, say a prayer and talk about the goodness of Christopher.
“Any information about this, please pass it on to the family’s solicitor, Aidan Carlin."
At a press conference just hours before the vigil, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said Christopher died from multiple head injuries sustained as a result of kicks and punches.
He said police will identify everyone involved in the vicious attack, which occurred a short time after an earlier incident near the Stewartstown Road.
“Christopher became separated from his friends and was fatally assaulted at the location where he was found,” he said.
“Some of those people in that large group may not have been involved in the attack on Christopher, or may not have anticipated the outcome of the attack.
“We’re working to establish what happened and who was involved.
“I’m appealing to those people to come forward now and co-operate with the investigation by telling police what they saw, come to us before we come to you.
“Anyone involved in the attack on Christopher should understand they will be identified, it is in their interests to come forward now voluntarily and with their solicitor if necessary so their role can be properly established.”
Mum heartbroken after son Christopher Meli left to die
A grieving mother has said her son, who died after he was attacked in west Belfast, was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Vanessa Meli said she believed her son Christopher (20) suffered a very violent death.
“I can’t even explain what they have done. Even if they knocked at my door now with an apology it is not good enough because it is not going to bring my son back,” she said.
There were scenes of heartbreak earlier in the day after Christopher’s parents arrived at the scene where their teenage son lay dead. Christopher ‘Cricky’ Meli was set upon by a gang in the early hours of Saturday.
Local people saw his distraught mother calling out her son’s name, while the teenager’s father broke through the cordon to try and reach his son.
Flowers adorned a lamp post close to where he died, with loving messages from friends and family.
John McPoland from the Ambulance Service said a crew arrived at the scene at 12.50am on Saturday.
The teenager had attended De La Salle school and had gone to study electrical engineering at Belfast Metropolitan College.
His uncle Kevin Meli blasted his attackers as “a bunch of animals” and said the young man’s father is devastated.
“The kids don’t deserve to be bullied with gangs with knives,” he said.
Christopher’s friends from across Belfast have spoken of their devastation on Facebook, while others changed their profile pictures to images of their friend. Joelene McMullan posted: “Woke up to the news of Cricky Meli. My heart is broke — one of the most loveliest wee lads about”.