Looking for Lisa

Lisa Dorrian, a fun-loving 25-year-old, vanished after a party earlier this year. Detectives believe she was another victim of loyalist gang warfare and drug dealing, writes John Breslin

ALL of Lisa Dorrian's possessions are packed into two suitcases in her parent's houses. They will not be opened until her body is recovered.

The 25-year-old disappeared on February 28. Police believe she was murdered by loyalist terrorists who then dumped her body.

Lisa's family want her body back, but those who can help are not talking, or at least not speaking the truth.

"When I look at the cases and realise that was Lisa's life inside them, all the things she held dear, I get angry," says her mother Patricia. "Why are her so-called friends not speaking up? Haven't they got a heart?"

Despite the silence, the police are now reportedly ready to arrest the main suspect, who is said to have gone into hiding.

Lisa's family have also been told a boat that might have been used to dump the body in the open sea was reportedly seized by investigators. Sets of Lisa's fingerprints have also been recovered from a caravan where she was partying before her disappearance.

There are at least two people who know where Lisa's body is. Maybe a dozen more have information about what happened in the hours leading up to her disappearance. They are not talking, partly because of intimidation by individuals connected to loyalist paramilitaries.

The family have even scraped together a £10,000 reward for information that would lead to her body being recovered and to those involved facing trial.

The last time John Dorrian saw his daughter was on the Friday evening before she disappeared. "I just called round to see her. There was nothing untoward," he said.

Lisa was in good form, looking forward to a weekend away in a caravan in Ballyhalbert, the most easterly village in Ireland.

What happened over the course of that weekend is less clear, but it ended with Patricia and John, from the village of Conlig, near Bangor, in north Down, receiving a call to say their daughter had disappeared.

Detectives investigating Lisa's disappearance on February 28 upgraded it to a murder inquiry within days.

Since then, they have spoken to 1,200 people, carried out 700 house to house inquiries, examined 781 exhibits, carried out 50 searches, including water, in the upper parts of the Ards Peninsula and arrested four people. Thirty detectives are assigned to the investigation.

Lisa, like most women of her age, enjoyed partying.

She had broken up with her old boyfriend the previous summer and was now seeing someone else.

She also had a new crowd of friends; some had connections with loyalist paramilitaries and all spent their weekends consuming large quantities of drugs.

Her family, suspicious of the new boyfriend, had also become increasingly concerned about Lisa's drug taking. She kept promising to stop and agreed to see a counsellor.

However, she had not yet stopped and continued to hang around with the same crowd.

Lisa's sister, Joanne, is particularly scathing about around 10 young women who were in the caravan that weekend. "I can't understand why the women in that group of so-called friends haven't had the decency or guts to help us. There hasn't been one single phone call or message of sympathy. It's as if Lisa never existed to them," she has told reporters.

One of those arrested was a teenager who said he was with Lisa on the morning she disappeared.

He said there had been a party in a caravan in Ballyhalbert but by the Monday morning, February 28, only he and Lisa were left. They were frightened by noises outside and, according to his version, ran from the caravan. He claimed to have lost her in the dark. The teenager phoned Lisa's mobile, which was answered by her boyfriend, who said he was in Bangor. The boyfriend, a member of a family known to have connections with loyalist paramilitaries, told police he was in Ballywalter and that Lisa had left her phone with him.

Detectives have pieced together

another possible scenario, that she had her phone, that she received a call around 5am and that she then left the caravan. She went to a house in nearby Ballyhalbert, where she was interrogated about missing money or drugs by loyalist paramilitaries, that she was beaten, then driven to another town, beaten again and then dumped.

It is said they did not mean to kill her but when it happened panicked and dumped the body.

However, they also eradicated evidence of their crime.

The dozen or so who attended the party have stuck to the same story, said Patricia. The party finished around 10pm and they all left. It doesn't add up, she said. "Young people are usually just getting ready to go out at that time, not heading home."

Patricia explains: I think there could be an intimidation thing here, definitely. There's a fear factor here.

"I am only learning all this. I am learning names that I never heard before that I never knew about, the different paramilitary groups."

Within days, graffiti had appeared blaming the Loyalist Volunteer Force, a splinter faction from the much larger Ulster Volunteer Force.

'LVF Ladykillers' was one of the slogans painted on the wall in an estate in Ballywalter. The names of those allegedly involved in her disappearance and death were also painted on the wall.

Her murder has been compared to that of Robert McCartney, the 33-year-old father of two who was beaten and stabbed to death outside a bar in Belfast exactly a month earlier. IRA members are thought to have been involved in the killing and a subsequent cover-up.

In the same way, it is alleged, loyalist paramilitaries have engineered a conspiracy of silence to make sure those involved in Lisa's disappearance and death get away with murder.

However, in the tangled underbelly of Northern loyalism, rife with drug dealing and murderous fighting, nothing, it seems, is that clear.

One of the men believed to have played a central role in Lisa's disappearance belongs to a group called the Red Hand Commando, a cover name used by the larger Ulster Volunteer Force. The other was linked to the Ulster Defence Association and now sells drugs for the LVF.

Three people have been killed in the past month in the latest round of faction fighting between the various loyalist groups. All three were linked to the LVF, although this group has denied one had any connection.

Recently, the UVF has forced members of the LVF, with whom it has been feuding since the smaller group's founding out of an estate in east Belfast. Its leadership has vowed to rid north Down of the LVF.

Both the LVF and the RHC have denied their members were involved in the disappearance and murder of Lisa Dorrian.

The UVF has initiated its own investigation and, according to reliable reports, appointed Samuel Cooke to carry it out.

Cooke, who is said to be a leading member of the organisation in east Belfast, was convicted over 10 years ago of the murder of a young Catholic woman, Anne Marie Smyth, who was lured to a house in the city, strangled and had her throat slit as five people stood by and watched. He was freed under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mark Dornan, who is leading the PSNI investigation, told the Observer: "These gangs have no moral or legal authority."

Patricia Dorrian, who moved to the North from Oldham in England after marrying a local man over two decades ago, says she definitely does not want retaliation in the form of another murder. She just wants her daughter to receive a decent burial and then to see those involved jailed for the crime.

Patricia had managed to shield her three daughters from the worst of the Troubles as they were growing up in the village of Conlig.

She and John also have a fourth daughter, aged just eight, who has been told only the barest details about her sister's disappearance.

Some time over one weekend in February, Lisa Dorrian had a fatal meeting with the Troubles in the form of loyalist killers and drugs and money. She is the latest of the North's disappeared.

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