Belfast Telegraph

Fresh hope for Dorrian family as major search begins close to where Lisa disappeared in 2005

Police search for Lisa Dorrian
Police search for Lisa Dorrian
Police search for Lisa Dorrian near the Ballyhalbert caravan park where she vanished in 2005
Lisa Dorrian
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

Police have launched a fresh large-scale search for murdered Bangor woman Lisa Dorrian at a former airfield site close to the Co Down caravan park where she disappeared 14 years ago.

Almost two-dozen specially trained officers arrived in Ballyhalbert yesterday morning to pursue a major line of enquiry.

An operations trailer equipped with computers and a mapping suite has been set up in a car park area beside the disused airfield.

A buggy will also allow officers to access marshy ground behind the caravan park.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation into Lisa's disappearance in 2005, said a number of other areas will be searched in the coming days.

"The determination of the PSNI to bring those who killed Lisa Dorrian to justice is as strong today as it has ever been," he said.

"The purpose of the search operation is two-fold: firstly, I want to recover Lisa's body and allow the Dorrian family to finally put Lisa to rest.

"And, secondly, I am looking for evidence relating to her disappearance."

The senior officer described the relationship between police and Lisa's family as very positive and confirmed that they were notified in advance of the planned search and have been updated on the current position of the investigation.

Police believe Lisa was secretly buried by two men known to each other, only one of whom was known to Lisa.

Earlier this year DS Murphy revealed that he believes the killer and his accomplice share a close "bond" which is why they have not given each other up.

"I firmly believe that the answers to Lisa's disappearance lie with a small number of people," he said. "They may believe that they are bound by a common bond and have maintained their silence as a result. That silence will be a heavy and lifelong burden. We can help to unlock that burden, but we cannot do so whilst they remain silent."

One theory is that the killer summoned his father to help transport Lisa's body in a car before she was buried near the spot where she vanished.

Security sources do not believe the murder was premeditated, meaning that her disappearance was rushed.

However, the initial police investigation focused on a group of criminals who Lisa owed money to, allowing the real killer and his accomplice time to cover their tracks and remove DNA traces.

The last person to see Lisa alive in February 2005 was Mark Lovett, then 17 years old.

He told police that he and Lisa fled the caravan where they were partying after hearing noises and seeing flashing lights outside.

No one has been charged with the 25-year-old's murder.

Police have pursued more than 3,500 lines of enquiry and carried out almost 400 searches.

Extensive air, water and land searches around Ballyhalbert, including the use of underwater search teams, failed to yield results in 2005.

A 2012 search of land owned by Jimmy Seales in Comber - who was convicted of an unrelated killing - also proved futile despite information that a vehicle used in Lisa's disappearance had ended up in landfill there.

A 2016 search for the missing shop worker focused on another area of farmland just outside Comber. It was launched after police received fresh information about the murder and saw specialist teams being brought in to look for human remains, however nothing was found. A number of items were removed for further examination but were of no assistance in the probe.

Lisa's father John and sisters Joanne and Michelle have always vowed to never give up looking for her and renewed their resolve following the death of her mum Patricia, in 2015. "We are confident in the investigation and its ability to find Lisa," they previously said.

"The people responsible for hiding my sister's body should know that we will never give up on Lisa, she is too precious.

"We will campaign until the day she is found and can be laid to rest with our mum."

Last night the Dorrian family said they had no comment to make at this time.

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