Belfast Telegraph

Parents of teen murdered 20 years ago issue fresh appeal to find his killer

A distressed Hazel Cairns yesterday
A distressed Hazel Cairns yesterday
Mrs Cairns and husband Raymond with Detective Inspector Adrian Brown
Officers search Loughermore Forest outside Ballykelly
Jonathan Cairns
Donna Deeney

by Donna Deeney

The parents of a teenager brutally murdered 20 years ago have told how they miss him every day.

Jonathan Cairns' body was found stripped and bound in a remote forest area near his home in Ballykelly village on April 25, 1999, the day after he went missing following a night out.

The 18-year-old's blood-soaked clothes were discovered on the steps of Glasvey school near the family home.

Despite a huge police manhunt at the time, his killers were never caught.

On the 20th anniversary, his parents Raymond and Hazel Cairns made a plea to people who have the information police need to secure a murder conviction to come forward.

Mr Cairns said: "It has been 20 years since our Jonathan was murdered. We miss him every day as bad as ever."

Jonathan was seen standing at the local chip shop with his friends in the early hours of April 25.

He smiled and waved to his parents as they drove past on their way home from a night out. It was the last time they saw their son alive.

Despite a £30,000 reward and a police investigation that included the identification of more than 2,500 witnesses, statements from almost 900 people and more than 20 searches, those responsible for the murder remain at large.

Yesterday, a short distance from that spot, an emotional Mr Cairns said : "Jonathan was only 18 when he was murdered, he now would have been 38, maybe with a family of his own. We have missed all that.

"Jonathan was always a happy person, always smiling and always looking out for us.

"We loved him as much as he loved us and we think about him every day, all the time.

"Some times it is a bit better but some times are worse.

"There is a reward of £30,000 and that reward still stands, so if anybody has information, if their conscience is bothering them, we would ask them to come forward so that in another 10 years or more we are not back here.

"It has been very difficult for us through all the years.

"I am not very good at speaking to the media but at all the anniversaries I have always tried to say something to the reporters and to do the best we could to try and get justice for Jonathan."

Mr Cairns said he did not know why his son was murdered.

"The people who did this took our son away from us and we don't know why. All of his family loved him and miss him so much," he added.

"To anyone who has information, it's never too late to come forward. Please tell us what you know."

To date the only person charged in connection with Jonathan's murder was a 49-year-old man who, in 2002, was convicted of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to five years.

To mark the anniversary, police officers spent the day in Ballykelly handing out leaflets and asking for information about the murder.

They also conducted another search of the forested area of Lougheramore where Jonathan's body was found in a shallow grave.

The detective leading the investigation believes there is still information about Jonathan's death that could lead to a conviction.

Detective Inspector Adrian Brown said: "For 20 years Jonathan's family and friends have suffered intolerable grief.

"Their son died a violent death as a result of a vicious beating and we understand their desire to see justice done.

"We are committed to doing all in our power to apprehend those involved in this brutal incident which went far beyond a drunken assault.

"I believe Jonathan's killer or killers were local to the area and they may have known Jonathan. I also believe that people within the Ballykelly community have information which could help."

DI Brown referred to two men seen in the area where Jonathan was assaulted on the Loughermore Road in the early hours of Sunday, April 25, 1999.

He added: "They have never come forward to speak to police despite numerous appeals, which leads me to believe they were involved in the murder.

"They were in their early 20s, about 5ft 10 inches tall and one of them might have had auburn coloured hair."

He urged those with information to search their consciences and come forward.

Anyone who can help is asked to call detectives on 101 or Crimestoppers free on 0800 555 111.

Family of Jonathan deserve justice for their son, Viewpoint, page 30

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