Woman 'murdered and dumped like trash', funeral told

A vulnerable young woman was brutally murdered and dumped like trash, a priest told her Belfast funeral today.

A vulnerable young woman was brutally murdered and dumped like trash, a priest told her Belfast funeral today.

The half-naked body of tragic loner Shirley Finlay, 24 was found strangled in a Ballymena car park a fortnight ago.

Several hundred people today attended an emotional funeral service for Shirley on the Antrim Road in north Belfast.

Fr Johnny Doherty told mourners at St Gerard's Church: "Shirley had been brutally murdered and then dumped like trash."

Shirley's foster sister Joanne Corry read a moving tribute to Shirley, who was given up for adoption at birth and grew up in foster homes.

Joanne later wept as the coffin was placed in the hearse. Local teenage girls clutching red roses also paid final tributes.

The flowers and wreaths included those from her two foster families and her birth family.

Two large floral arrangements spelt out Shirley and Friend.

Shirley was buried in Milltown Cemetery, Belfast beside her natural mother.

Shirley, from Crebilly Road, Ballymena, was found wrapped in a duvet in Mount Street car park on September 19. Her shoes and trousers remain missing.

A sexual motive for the killing is a main line of police inquiry.

Shirley struggled with mental health problems for years and was regularly seen wandering alone, talking to herself and oblivious to those around her.

She would often leave her flat in the Ballykeel One estate and join groups of street drinkers in other parts of the town.

Police inquiries are focused on the Harryville district, where she may have been with a tall, dark haired man just before her death, and across town at Mount Street where her strangled body was discovered.

Police are also investigating if Shirley had a daughter after an unsigned letter attached to a bouquet of flowers placed at the crime scene appeared to suggest so.

The murder of someone so vulnerable - just days before her 25th birthday - has horrified Ballymena.

The town is already scarred by sectarian tensions and violence.

In May, Catholic schoolboy Michael McIlveen, 15, was beaten to death in a brutal gang attack.

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