Man found dead in Wigan canal was father of thug Ryan Craig convicted of Scott Vineer attack
A man found dead in an English canal yesterday was the father of a thug jailed for a vicious attack on an autistic teenager that left the victim brain-damaged.
Mervyn Craig (46), from Lisburn, vanished without trace almost a month ago after travelling to Wigan to meet a woman he befriended online.
The father-of-four had told his family he was going to Manchester to work on a building site.
But details of his secret relationship emerged after the woman he raised as his daughter, Samantha (29), accessed his Facebook account.
Mr Craig was the father of Ryan Craig, who was part of a gang that viciously beat Lisburn teenager Scott Vineer. Ryan (20) is currently serving a five-year jail term for the 2012 attack, which left Mr Vineer brain-damaged.
Last night a bitter war of words erupted on Facebook after friends of the Craig family accused Mr Vineer's mother of celebrating the man's death.
In September 2012 Ryan was one of three people who left Scott unconscious in a pool of blood in the grounds of a disused factory and threw his phone away so he was unable to call for help.
Scott, who was 17 at the time, was discovered more than 24 hours later by a police dog handler. He was so badly injured doctors warned he was unlikely to live. Scott survived, but was left with brain damage and on crutches.
Helen-Louise Doney said Mervyn Craig had thrown abuse at her when Ryan had appeared in court for the assault on her son.
She also claimed Mr Craig had said his son had done nothing wrong, and that Scott must have done something to deserve his beating. Mrs Doney recently told the Belfast Telegraph how she was now living in fear after one of Scott's attackers was spotted outside their house.
Yesterday the dead man's heartbroken sister Pamela Harper (34) told how she had daily conversations with her brother in Wigan, including on the day he disappeared. Mrs Harper also said their parents Winnie (68) and William (72) were overcome with grief after Mr Craig's body was discovered in the water yesterday morning: "Mummy and daddy are in bits; they're utterly devastated.
"They can't believe that they're going to be burying their own son.
"When Mervyn went missing we tried to keep positive, but as time went on we started to fear the worst."
She added: "I think Mervyn did genuinely go there for work but when he was over there he realised that he'd made a mistake. But then he disappeared.
"Whatever happened that night, Mervyn has paid dearly for that mistake."
Mrs Harper, a mother-of-three, said Mr Craig, an insulin-dependent diabetic, was legally separated from his wife Donna, with whom he has three children: Dwayne (24), Chloe (21) and Ryan.
She added that he had cared for Samantha as his own since she was just a year old.
Mrs Harper admitted she hadn't been aware of his plans to go to England, although she talked to him every day when he was staying with his friend.
"I spoke to him two or three times a day, right up until he went missing on February 8," she said.
"He told me he loved me and he asked me if I was standing by him despite what he had done."
She said she had become concerned for his well-being when she realised he had started drinking again in Wigan after a five-year abstention due to alcohol problems.
"That day he went missing he didn't sound like himself at all," she said. "We had arranged for him to go to the house of a cousin who lives in Manchester, but he never went."
Mrs Harper said she and her other brother Lenny (44) are now awaiting the autopsy results after Mr Craig's body was found in Wigan. "We want to get him home as soon as possible but we've been told it'll take about a week to get everything organised," she said.