Belfast Telegraph

Our pain is unimaginable, say Lisa Dorrian's family as police step up search

Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The distraught sister of missing Co Down shop assistant Lisa Dorrian has said that no one can imagine what it feels like not knowing where she is.

Joanne Dorrian broke down in tears as police carried out a fresh search operation at the site where her sibling was last seen alive 14 years ago.

The search is being conducted at a disused airfield beside the caravan park in Ballyhalbert where new technology is being used to examine underground areas that might not have previously been able to be explored.

Ms Dorrian, who was 25, vanished from the caravan park after a party on February 28, 2005.

Police believe the Bangor woman was murdered and are using new information and new techniques to comb the area.

Joanne told of her family's ongoing despair at not knowing what happened to Lisa, as well as the trauma of revisiting the place where she disappeared, apparently without trace.

"Just coming back to Ballyhalbert has been really, really difficult," she said.

"When Lisa first went missing we walked these fields, in the days after she went missing we thought we were just looking for her because she had ran out in the night, and that she'd fallen and maybe just passed away in the cold.

"Obviously, we then knew police were looking at a murder investigation. People can't imagine what this feels like, they can't imagine what it feels like not knowing where she is."

Urging anyone with information that could help find her sister after all this time to come forward, Joanne said none of her family "have been the same ever since this happened".

"My mum passed away a few years ago, she never got the answers that she needed, it ruined her life and it has ruined our lives," she said.

She added: "To think that Lisa could be here where we are today, it's just so hard to imagine."

Joanne, who was there yesterday with her father John and her sisters Michelle and Ciara, also spoke directly to those who know what happened on that Sunday morning 14 years ago.

Joanne Dorrian at the site
Joanne Dorrian at the site
Sisters Michelle and Ciara
police conduct searches

"This is for Lisa, this is not for us," she said.

"The people who know where Lisa is knew Lisa; they knew the kind of person that she was, they knew the funny person that she was, and I just ask them to remember that.

"If they can come forward and please just help us to get some sort of peace, that's all that we can ask for."

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation, said the determination of the PSNI to bring those who killed Lisa to justice is as strong now as it ever was.

He believes she knew her killers and he said "a small number of individuals were involved in both her death and her disappearance".

But he admitted that detectives have come up against "a wall of silence" because "those small number of individuals feel bonded together in what they know, and in effect if one tells they're all in serious trouble".

"People know what went on," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I've appealed to their conscience previously and it hasn't developed to anything. I need important people to contact me.

"That's what today is about.

"First of all, it's about progressing the investigation, but secondly, it's about encouraging those who have got information to come and talk to us."

Mr Murphy said police had received "new information", but yesterday he declined to elaborate on what that was.

He also said the new searches were taking place after months of planning involving the PSNI and National Crime Agency.

Yesterday's hunt involving 40 specialist search officers took place in the disused airfield, but there will be further searches of the caravan park beside it over the coming days.

Mr Murphy said there was nothing to suggest that Ms Dorrian's murder had been pre-planned, nor that the disposal of her body had been pre-planned.

He added that police therefore believe that her body is still in Ballyhalbert.

"To date more than 400 searches have been conducted across Northern Ireland," he said.

"The fact that those searches have not found Lisa's body have caused me to refocus our efforts more locally to the Ballyhalbert area."

Referring to the ongoing search - using technology that he said has only been in existence for five years - the officer stressed that it wasn't a case of "going over old ground" but "about looking at areas that weren't previously searched, either because we were unable to search them because of technology or because those were areas that were not considered to be important at that stage".

Mr Murphy said the searches being conducted "over the next few days on this site specifically relate to voids under the ground".

He added: "As a result of this being a disused airfield from 1945 there may be voids under the ground into which Lisa's body may have been deposited which couldn't previously have been found because the technology didn't exist."

Asked about a possible UVF link, he said: "There's been speculation about paramilitary involvement but I'm not going to limit myself to that line of investigation."

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