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Lisa Dorrian killed in caravan

Exclusive detectives believe last person to see missing woman alive holds key to 14-year mystery

Police officers at Ballyhalbert Caravan Park in Co Down where fresh searches have been taking place (Rebecca Black/PA)
Police officers at Ballyhalbert Caravan Park in Co Down where fresh searches have been taking place (Rebecca Black/PA)

COPS searching for the body of murdered Lisa Dorrian believe she may have been strangled after rejecting the sexual advances of her killer.

The new line of inquiry comes after the senior officer heading the investigation told Sunday Life she was likely killed between 10.30pm and 1.15am in the caravan in which she was last seen.

This newspaper can also confirm the 49-year-old man arrested in connection with the 2005 disappearance is a former member of staff at the Ballyhalbert holiday site on the North Down coast. Police were yesterday granted an extra 12 hours to continue questioning him and a 34-year-old woman who was with Lisa in the hours before her murder.

It was this male who Mark Lovett, the last man to see Lisa alive, ran to for help screaming that she had gone missing at 4.45am after a drugs party.

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Lisa Dorrian disappeared in 2005 (family handout/PA)

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy told us: "There is nothing that suggests to me that Lisa was attacked by a stranger, that there were strangers on the site, or that she was taken off-site by anybody that didn't know her. That leads me to the conclusion, in my view, that she was killed in the caravan."

Sunday Life can further reveal that a key witness has told police both Mark Lovett (right) and Lisa were "hallucinating" in the hours before her disappearance.

He was the only sober individual at the caravan drugs party, leaving around 10.30pm.

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Worried about their safety, the witness phoned Lovett at 1.15am on February 28, 2005, to check both he and Lisa were okay.

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Lisa Dorrian was last seen alive at Ballyhalbert Caravan Park on the Co Down coast on February 28 2005 (PSNI/PA)

In police statements he revealed how Lovett rambled incoherently and talked about "seeing things" before ending the call.

After sobering up the next day, Lovett told detectives that he and Lisa fled the caravan park at 4.45am after hearing noises and seeing flashing lights outside.

The 25-year-old shop assistant was never seen again, with police now saying she was killed inside the static home.

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New search: Lisa Dorrian

DS Murphy added: "I know that Lisa was alive between 10pm and 10.30pm. There was a phone call made at 1.15am (to Mark Lovett) and that phone call for me is relevant. There is a potential that Lisa was already dead at that stage.

"My question is what happens between 10.30pm and 1.15am, and what happens between 1.15am and 4.45am?"

Asked if Lisa was murdered between 10.30pm and 1.15am, DS Murphy replied: "There is certainly potential for it."

There was no blood found during forensic tests of the caravan leading detectives to conclude that Lisa was either strangled or suffocated inside. They also found no evidence that it had been wiped clean by her killer.

At the time of Lisa's disappearance Lovett, then aged 17, worked at the Ballyhalbert site as a groundsman, sleeping in a caravan reserved for staff.

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Searches: Lisa Dorrian

He was the only person at the complex to report hearing strange sounds and seeing flashing lights at 4.45am.

Detectives who are poring over every aspect of the case now have only one suspect in mind.

They believe this individual murdered Lisa and was assisted in disappearing her body by a close confidant - the bond being so strong that they have never gave each other up.

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Joanne Dorrian at the site

Others questioned as suspects included convicted criminals Mark Smyth (36), Marty Peacock (35), and Lisa's ex-boyfriend Stevie Thompson (40), from whom she had stolen drugs. Each of these men have been officially ruled out of PSNI enquiries.

In a previous interview with Sunday Life, Thompson said that on the night Lisa disappeared, Mark Lovett rang her mobile, which she had returned to him after they split-up.

He explained: "Lisa's phone rang at 5am on the Monday morning. I answered it and it was Mark Lovett.

"He was ringing from a phone at the caravan park. Mark told me Lisa had disappeared and asked did I know where she was.

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Press Eye Belfast - Northern Ireland 2nd April 2019 The scene beside Ballyhalbert caravan park on the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, where the PSNI have begun a fresh search for Lisa Dorrian. The woman from Bangor disappeared from the caravan park in 2005. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye.com

"I said no, and from the tone of the conversation it didn't strike me that there were any worries."

Mobile phone records show Lovett continued to make inquiries about Lisa's whereabouts for 48 hours after he last saw her alive. During that period, he also spoke to her frantic sisters who described him as being upset.

Lovett, who lives near his parents' home in the Rathcoole estate in Newtownabbey, has so far resisted calls from the Dorrian family to go back over what he can remember with detectives.

In 2016 his younger brother Ryan Lovett told this newspaper that his sibling, who is now a father of two boys, had been "wrecked" by the events of that night.

When Sunday Life last approached the family home of Mark Lovett to speak to him, our journalist was told to leave. This was after we had reported his convictions for possessing an offensive weapon and drugs.

As the last person to see Lisa alive, detectives believe Lovett may have yet untapped information, due to his drug taking on the night, which could prove vital.

His dad Jim Lovett was also spoken to by police as a potential witness because he owned a caravan on the Ballyhalbert site for many years.

The identity of Lisa's killer and the accomplice who helped hide her body have been the talk of loyalist circles for weeks.

This was after Sunday Life revealed they are being protected by the leader of the South East Antrim UVF, whose sister has a child with the murderer's father - a veteran member of the Red Hand Commando gang.

It is because of these family links that both terror groups are reluctant to put pressure on Lisa's killer to reveal where her body is hidden.

Following publication of our stories new information was received by detectives who spent last week searching a disused airfield behind Ballyhalbert caravan park.

DS Jason Murphy said investigators were using new technology that was not available at the time of her disappearance in 2005. He also said police believed Lisa's body was hidden in the area.

More than 400 land, air and sea searches have taken place since the murder with the PSNI pursuing more than 3,500 lines of inquiry.

cbarnes@sundaylife.co.uk

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