Body of William McCormick found in lake may have been concealed in a bin
Police are still hunting the killers of Co Down man William 'Pat' McCormick after his body was found in a lough.
The 55-year-old's remains were recovered in Magherascouse Lough, Ballygowan, by specialist divers on Tuesday afternoon.
It is believed that his body may have been concealed in a wheelie bin, but police have so far declined to comment on this.
His body could have been in the water for almost six weeks.
Police are awaiting the results of a post-mortem to determine his exact cause of death.
Mr McCormick was last seen walking down Castle Street in Comber at around 10.45pm on Thursday, May 30.
His disappearance was initially treated as a missing person case, but was quickly changed to a murder inquiry after police reviewed the evidence.
Mr McCormick's family raised the alarm when the former Royal Irish Regiment soldier failed to turn up for work or take his children to school.
Originally from Saintfield, he had worked as a caretaker at Strean Presbyterian Church in Newtownards, where his funeral will be held next week.
Police have conducted 38 searches to date and spoken to 235 witnesses.
One line of enquiry being pursued is that the father-of-four was killed in a block of flats on the night he went missing.
Six people have been arrested during the course of the investigation, all of whom were subsequently released on bail pending further enquiries.
Speaking yesterday, Detective Chief Inspector Pete Montgomery said: "First and foremost my thoughts are with Pat's family as they come to terms with this news.
"As a result of information received I conducted a number of searches in lakes over three days and subsequently recovered Pat's body.
"While finding his body brings an end to some of the distress for his family, they now want those responsible brought to justice."
Mr McCormick's family said that while the last four weeks have been "devastating", they are grateful to have his body home for their final goodbyes.
His wife Alison issued a statement through the PSNI.
"I would like to thank the Comber community for all their help and information that they have given police to help recover Pat," she said.
"Myself and his four children are truly thankful."
Mr McCormick's brother Harry also thanked the public for their support.
"The last six weeks have been devastating for his parents, brothers, wife and beautiful four children; however, we are grateful to now have Pat home for our final goodbyes and burial," he said in a statement.
"A massive thank you to everyone for their support and prayers, especially the public of Comber.
"As a family in mourning we would now ask for privacy.
"We know that the PSNI are doing everything they can for us, and Pat, to get justice."
One of Mr McCormick's four children, Myles, took to social media yesterday to thank people for their messages of comfort.
Myles wrote: "Never in a million years would I think this would all happen to me, my family, and my family friends.
"I would like to thank all family, friends and everyone who has showed us all support from just kind messages to coming to the house.
"I would also like to thank the PSNI detectives and search teams for all they have done and will continue to do.
"The people who have done this will never get away with it and they will live with it for the rest of their lives. I've had time to come to terms with this over the last four weeks but nothing will ever prepare you for something so serious.
"RIP Dad, finally some closure."
DCI Montgomery said officers were keen to trace the movements of a blue Transit van, reg JLZ 1672, with distinctive silver wings at the front, during the days around Mr McCormick's disappearance.
It was seen on the Killinchy Road, in the rear car park of SuperValu in Comber and on the Old Ballygowan Road.
He added that Mr McCormick's iPhone SE mobile phone with a distinctive black and red cover also "remains outstanding".
The charity Crimestoppers had been offering a £10,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of his body.
Mr Montgomery encouraged the person who provided the information to come forward to speak to him directly - though he said he would respect their decision if they chose not to.
He also appealed to anyone else with any information regarding the murder to come forward.
"How Pat was killed and the motive remain part of my investigation and for that reason I am unable to make any further comment," he added.
Mr McCormick is survived by his wife Alison, children Myles, Mackenzie, Morgan and Mitchell, parents Jean and Frank, brothers and wider family circle.
His funeral will take place in Strean Presbyterian Church on Monday at 9am, with burial afterwards in Movilla Cemetery.
His family have requested that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the Royal British Legion, Newtownards Branch c/o S Clarke and Son Funeral Directors in Newtownards.