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Mystery of the body in Portadown brook, the missing Lithuanian and the police's wall of silence over case

The rumour mill has been working overtime in Portadown since the grim discovery of a dead man in a stream, writes Ivan Little

Published 08/03/2016

The stream in which Eimantas Gerdvilas' body was found
The stream in which Eimantas Gerdvilas' body was found
A police cordon at the scene in Mourneview Street

Near a scruffy piece of wasteland in an almost forgotten corner of Portadown where a man's body was found in a stream at the weekend, the scrawled message on a wall says 'No More Dumping'.

It's a warning to fly-tippers to keep out but it's clearly been routinely ignored, and it's the sort of overgrown area where anything could lie undetected for days or even weeks.

The PSNI wasn't saying yesterday how long it believed the body may have been there.

Indeed, it wasn't saying a lot about anything as the force insisted it had to wait for the results of a post-mortem examination today to confirm suspicions that the man was murdered.

Local people weren't quite so reticent. They have little doubt that the man was killed, possibly in another part of Portadown and his body left in the stream, close to where everything from toys to household rubbish have been discarded.

Ever since the gruesome discovery was made on Sunday morning the rumour mill around Mourneview Street has been in overdrive.

Yesterday evening police were given an additional 36 hours to question three men who were arrested as part of their investigation, and a woman and a 17-year-old girl were released - the teenager to be reported for withholding information. The PSNI indicated that it knew who the dead man was but it added that it wouldn't release any details until after the conclusion of today's post-mortem and a formal identification.

Despite the caution, speculation in Mourneview Street is that the dead man was a Lithuanian who had been living in the Co Armagh town for some time.

DUP Assemblyman Sydney Anderson, who has been liaising with the PSNI, said he understood that the man was originally from eastern Europe.

Last month police issued appeals for help in tracing missing 31-year-old Lithuanian Eimantas Gerdvilas, who had lived in the Killicomaine area of the town, amid concerns for his well-being.

A spokesman said at the time: "We want to get him back to his loved ones safely."

The PSNI yesterday refused to say if it believed the dead man could be Mr Gerdvilas, but one man who lives in the Mourneview Street area said police had shown him a photograph of the missing man over the weekend.

He said: "The police were keeping their cards very close to their chests. They wouldn't tell me what was going on."

After the body was found police carried out door-to-door enquiries and forensic teams concentrated their intensive investigations on one house in Mourneview Street.

A number of addresses in Killicomaine were also searched, and it's understood there was still a heavy police presence last night.

Politicians say they're shocked at the developments in Mourneview Street, which is in an area that has become popular with large numbers of immigrant workers, particularly from eastern Europe.

One man told me: "Mourneview Street has changed quite dramatically down the years. It was always famous as one of Portadown's most staunchly loyalist streets with a Twelfth of July arch going up there every year along with bunting from all the houses.

"But in recent times scores of workers from outside the town have found the housing in the area attractive because it is at the lower end of the rental market. And there's always been plenty of jobs for the foreign workers in Portadown thanks largely to the food industry."

Portadown man Darryn Causby, who's Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon District Council, said his heart went out to the dead man's family.

"It's a very sad day for them, for Portadown and for Mourneview Street where a number of families have been living in the same homes for the past 50 years," he said.

"People there are distraught. It's a very closely-knit area and even though it has seen many different communities setting up home in the district, there's a genuine sense of horror that this gentleman is dead.

"It's the last thing they would ever have imagined could happen on their own doorsteps."

Ulster Unionist councillor Doug Beattie has visited Mourneview Street, where he said people were not only stunned but also confused over the discovery of the body.

"It's a quiet street. Residents there don't know the man who has died and while there is speculation that he mightn't be a local, many people are upset that his life has been cut short," he said. "A lot of people's prayers are with the man's relatives and his friends at what is a very difficult time."

It's not the first time that Mourneview Street has found itself in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Five years ago there were reports that a brothel was being operated there, and in April 2014 police moved in to shut down what was described as a "thriving brothel" in a house after long-term residents reported suspicious activity.

"There'd been claims that three women were living in the house and that cars were arriving at all hours of the day and night," said one man.

Several days after the police operation, there were reports that more women were seen in the house, but the PSNI again shut down the operation.

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