Lisa Dorrian: New search in Ballyhalbert for missing woman

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Lisa Dorrian, a 25-year-old shop assistant from Bangor, County Down, went missing in February 2005

A new police search is taking place in County Down for Lisa Dorrian, who has been missing, presumed murdered, for 16 years.

Ms Dorrian was 25 when she disappeared after attending a party at a caravan park in the seaside village of Ballyhalbert, County Down.

Ponds at the Clay Pits in Ballyhalbert are being searched on Tuesday.

Det Supt Jason Murphy said he believed only one or two people know where Ms Dorrian's body is.

"Today marks a continuation of the commitment that we have made to the family to help to find Lisa's body and bring justice to her and her family," he said.

"This is an area that we will search over the next two weeks with police divers looking for any evidence that's linked to Lisa's disappearance."

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One or two people know where Lisa Dorrian's body is, says Det Supt Jason Murphy

Det Supt Murphy said the Clay Pits were searched in the days after Ms Dorrian's disappearance "but at that stage the divers or the search team believed she may have fallen into the water, rather than the body having been disposed of.

"The search activity around that is completely different."

He said the Dorrian family had been left in despair for 16 years.

"The true location of Lisa's body is known only by those who disposed of her body," Det Supt Murphy said.

"I believe that the number of people who know where Lisa is one or two... individuals.

"I think the challenge of trying to unlock that is very difficult."

'Lisa is everything to us'

Lisa's sister Joanne Dorrian thanked the police for their dedication and "for realising how important this is for us because we can't even get on with our lives... without Lisa".

She added: "You're just consumed by the fact the she's gone and we can't find her.

Image source, PAcemaker
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The Clay Pits area of Ballyhalbert is being searched

"Lisa is everything to us and coming down to a site like this today, it just puts it all in perspective just how brutal what actually happened to Lisa could possibly be.

"You let your mind go there on occasion but you have to stop that because it would consume you.

"Our love for Lisa is the only thing that keeps us going - we're a stronger family now than we were 16 years ago.

"She doesn't deserve to be in a place unknown to us and those who loved her, she deserves to have a Christian burial."

At the scene: BBC Newsline reporter Kevin Sharkey

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption,
The Dorrian family visited the search site on Tuesday

Lisa Dorrian's family have endured 16 years of waiting to bring her body home - 16 years of patience and pain.

On Tuesday, about half a mile from where she disappeared, a new search and renewed hope.

Her father and sisters stood on the banks of some of the ponds at the Clay Pits.

They watched divers searching the waters, sometimes shallow, sometimes deep, mostly dark.

On one of the ponds, a swan swam gracefully across the water - a fleeting moment of calm amid a family's torment.

Ms Dorrian's disappearance is one of the most high-profile unsolved murders in Northern Ireland.

The last reported sighting of the 25-year-old was on the night of 27 February 2005.

When the shop assistant, from Bangor, County Down, first went missing, police said they could not rule out a crime.

Image source, PAcemaker
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Police divers are involved in the latest search

Her handbag and belongings were discovered at the party in the caravan site.

The police response was upgraded from a missing person search to a murder inquiry on 13 March 2005, two weeks after she was last seen.

Over the past 16 years, police have followed thousands of lines of inquiry, taken hundreds of statements and carried out hundreds of unsuccessful searches.

They have also made several arrests but no-one has been charged with her murder.