Pain remains 10 years after young man’s New Year’s disappearance

Martin Kelly, missing 21-year-old plumber and barman (who would now be aged 31)
Martin Kelly, missing 21-year-old plumber and barman (who would now be aged 31)

A father whose son vanished in Belfast exactly a decade ago this Friday has said that the pain of his disappearance has not become easier with time.

Raymond Kelly was speaking as he renewed his appeal for anyone with information about Martin Kelly’s disappearance to step forward.

Raymond Kelly (father) near the last sighting of his son  Martin Kelly

Raymond Kelly (father) near the last sighting of his son Martin Kelly

He called for all present that night to “re-examine their minds” about the period surrounding his disappearance after leaving the now-closed Pat’s Bar, not far from the River Lagan, at 7pm on New Year’s Day, 2006.

After he vanished, posters calling for information had been widely circulated around the city and the Lagan was searched, but to no avail. He was 21 at the time.

Holywood photographer Raymond Kelly, who is now aged 64 and still has two daughters, said there was a “high probability” that he entered the water, but that ultimately it is unknown.

Asked if the incident has become less hard to handle over the past 10 years, he said: “It’s just the same. This particular issue with Martin, we don’t know. There isn’t any closure.

“We don’t know exactly what really [went] on there, what did happen to him. Nobody saw him go into the water.”

Martin – who had spent time in Namibia doing voluntary work in his late teens – was training to be a plumber.

He had been working part-time in The Priory bar, Holywood, while in his last year of apprenticeship training.

His father described him as “full of bounce” and “happy go lucky”.

After working at the bar on New Year’s Eve, he left at about 2am and went to two different house parties in Holywood. His father said he did not sleep.

He then went to Belfast the following day and went to Pat’s Bar near Clarendon Dock, on the western side of the Lagan, where he arrived probably around 2pm.

CCTV cameras picked him up leaving the bar by a side door at about 7pm.

He was then picked up about 15 metres (just less than 50 feet) away by another camera, heading towards a walkway with railings next to the harbour.

As well as asking anyone there on the evening to search their memories, Mr Kelly said that – about two weeks after his disappearance – a man (who has since died) had reported to police that he had encountered two young women in St Colmcille’s chapel, Holywood, who were praying for Martin and who said theyhad overheard two men in The Priory talking about wanting to give Martin a “hiding”.

He said these women have never come forward.

Mr Kelly said witnesses can talk to the clergy if needs be, or call police on (028)90 650 222 (extension 26054 or 26141), call the Missing Persons Helpline on 0500 700 700, or e-mail .