Belfast Telegraph

Man released over Marie Conlon death in Belfast but case still murder probe

By Allan Preston

Police have said the death of west Belfast pensioner Marie Conlon remains a murder probe, despite dropping the charge against a man.

A PSNI spokesperson confirmed yesterday that all lines of enquiry were still open, including the possibility of identifying other suspects.

A 23-year-old man was arrested in west Belfast on Wednesday on suspicion of a number of charges including murder.

He was released yesterday unconditionally in relation to suspicion of murder, but has been charged with theft, fraud and preventing the lawful burial of a body.

He is due to appear before Belfast Magistrates Court next month.

The last confirmed sighting of Ms Conlon (68), was in January 2015. Police said that medical evidence suggests her death also occurred around this time.

Her body was found last Friday after authorities were alerted over concerns for her welfare.

Police forced their way into Ms Conlon's flat to find her body in her bed.

A murder probe was launched after a post-mortem examination suggested the pensioner's death was suspicious. It is understood Ms Conlon was not married and had no children, while a Facebook account thought to be in her name had not been active since 2014.

Yesterday, flowers were left at the front door of her flat at Larkspur Rise.

SDLP councillor Brian Heading said yesterday: "The bottom line is there are more questions than there are answers."

He added: "The police need to carry out a full and complete investigation into the incident, into all aspects of the death, so there's clarity for both the family and the local community about how a local woman appeared to be adrift.

"There was a disconnect there, that she was missing for over two years and no-one realised it."

Mr Heading said he believed the financial circumstances of Ms Conlon were among the key queries, specifically if her pension was still being collected and if household bills had been paid.

"People need to be mindful within their community that there are vulnerable members and we need to be able to connect with them in some way to ensure they're not left vulnerable and potentially exploited," he said.

He added: "If you lived in the west you would go to the Kennedy shopping centre at some stage and somebody's going to say 'I saw so and so out'. If you don't drive and even if you only go down once a week, someone is bound to see you in a black taxi or a bus.

"She's dropped off the radar for the family. Given her age, I would describe her as vulnerable. It's sad."

Ms Conlon was from an extended family in the Ballymurphy area of west Belfast.

They said they had tried to contact her unsuccessfully over the past two years.

A family statement released on Thursday added they were "shocked and heartbroken" over the death.

"Marie was very much loved by her family and will be mourned greatly," the statement read.

"She was a very independent person. Numerous attempts had been made to contact her in person and by other means over the course of the past two years but at no point were suspicions raised that she had been deceased.

"It is only with hindsight the unimaginable now seems possible."

Sinn Fein councillor Stephen Magennis, who is a cousin of Ms Conlon, said the family "want answers".

"Marie was a very private person and they're a private family so all this going on around them is a lot to take in," he said on Thursday.

"The family, and myself, would reiterate the police's call for anyone who has any information that might help to please come forward."

Belfast Telegraph

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