Northern Ireland

Christopher Meli: Hundreds attend vigil for Belfast murder victim

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Media captionChristopher Meli died after he was attacked by a gang of youths in Glasvey Close

Hundreds of people have attended a vigil for a man who police said was murdered in a "sustained and vicious assault" in Belfast at the weekend.

Christopher Meli died after he was attacked by a gang of youths. He was discovered on Saturday near houses at Glasvey Close in the Twinbrook estate.

A post mortem examination revealed he died of multiple head injuries after being kicked and punched.

Police are continuing to question five teenagers about the killing.

Image caption Hundreds of people attended the vigil for Christopher Meli on Monday night

Two men aged 18 and a 16-year-old boy were arrested on Saturday, while two teenage males aged 17 and 18 were arrested on Sunday.

The Meli family was joined by friends and supporters for the vigil on the Springfield Road on Monday night.

Candles were lit and prayers were said in memory of the father of one.

Image caption Friends and family of the victim lit candles and said prayers at the vigil on Monday night
Image caption Mr Meli's mother Vanessa Burke said her son was in the wrong place at the wrong time

In a press conference earlier, the police office leading the murder inquiry, Det Ch Insp Richard Campbell, said a "picture is starting to emerge of what happened".

"At this stage I believe that Christopher was one of a group of four people, when he was set upon by a number of individuals from a much larger group," he added.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Christopher Meli was the father of a two-year-old boy

"There appears to have been an initial incident on the Stewartstown Road before the attack on Christopher in an area known locally as Doc's Lane. Christopher became separated from his friends and he was fatally assaulted at the location where his body was found.

"Some of those people who were in that larger group may not have been involved in the attack on Christopher, nor may they have anticipated the outcome of the attack."

'Identified'

Appealing for those people to contact police, he said: "Come to us before we come to you.

"Anyone who was involved in the attack on Christopher should understand that they will be identified and it is in their interests to come forward now, voluntarily and with a solicitor if necessary, so that their role can be properly established."

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Media captionDetective Chief Inspector Richard Campbell said Christopher was subjected to a "sustained and vicious assault"

Mr Meli's mother, Vanessa Burke, said her son was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

'Violent death'

She said that when she went to the scene to be told her son was dead, she "just lost it completely".

"I couldn't believe it was him. I can't even explain what they've done," she said.

"As far as I know Christopher's got marks all over his body. I believe that Christopher died a very violent death."

She said that after finding out about Christopher's death she wanted to go and hold his son, two-year-old Kyle Christopher, to feel a connection with him.

"Coming down on the way home, I said to Christy [Christopher's father] I need to go see my grandson, I needed to be around my grandson, I just needed to hold him, because it was about as close as I was going to get to Christopher," Ms Burke said.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Forensic officers carried out an examination of the scene
Image caption Mr Meli was found dead in west Belfast in the early hours of Saturday morning

Christopher's father, Christopher Snr, said his son was never involved in any trouble.

"He wasn't into drugs, none of that, there was none of that around this house," Mr Meli said

"He was also doing his driving lessons, he had passed his theory - he had a wee car outside there ready for when he passed his test and he couldn't wait to get that wee car on the road to go to work and all.

"It's like now where are we?"

Image caption The incident happened near Glasvey Close in Twinbrook
Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Other tributes were also left to Mr Meli

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