Heartbroken brother's emotional tribute to missing Lisburn woman Paula Elliott

The heartbroken brother of missing Lisburn woman Paula Elliott has said he “will never forget” his much-loved sister following a tragic end to the four-week search.
Paula ElliottPaula Elliott
Paula Elliott

David Birney has also praised all of those who helped with search – which ended with the discovery of a body in the River Lagan on Monday (April 1).

The 52-year-old mother of three was last seen on Tuesday, March 5 on CCTV cameras leaving the Sprucefield Court area of Lisburn at 5.30pm, before making her way to Warren Gardens at around 5.36pm.

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She was then seen travelling along the Hillsborough Road at 5.39pm, driving a red Citroen C4 car, which was found a short time later parked near the Lagan towpath.

Paula’s car was discovered later that evening by Mr Birney in a towpath parking area at the end of a lane that runs from the Hillsborough Road, adjacent to the Eurospar filling station.

In a statement on Tuesday, the PSNI said: “Police can confirm that the body of a woman was recovered from the river Lagan in Lisburn on Monday, 1st April.

"Formal identification has yet to take place, however, we have notified the family of Paula Elliott who was reported missing on Tuesday, 5th March 2024.

"A post mortem will take place in due course.”

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In a social media message following news that a body had been recovered, Mr Birney said: “There is nothing wrong to admit when you are wrong and that's what I'm doing now.

"My gut was sure my sister would be found safe and well and my gut told me she was out there somewhere, how wrong was I, but I'm posting this to admit that I was, and there is nothing wrong with holding your hands up when you do make mistakes.

My gut must have been just holding onto hope. Miss you sis and will never forget you.”

A second message paid tribute to the volunteers involved in the search effort.

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"Thank you all for everything and everyone's support for trying to find Paula. Not the news we were hoping for, but that's life at the minute. Could all give us time to grieve, and the family would like my parents home to be strictly private at present.

"Thanks you all involved I will always be in your debt.”

One of those who reached out to Paula’s family and offered support was Joanne Dorrian, whose own sister LIsa Dorrian went missing in 2005.

In response to Mr Birney’s messages, Ms Dorrian praised the efforts of “an amazing brother” who did all he could.

“You have nothing to admit David. You were hoping beyond hope that Paula was still out there and would come back to you,” she said.

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"You couldn’t change what happened but you did everything you could to make sure people were looking out for her and making sure the authorities considered all possibilities.

"You are an amazing brother and your gut was just hoping endlessly."

A funeral service for Ms Elliott will take place in Lisburn on Tuesday (April 9). The service will be held at St Paul’s Parish Church, Ballinderry Road at 1.30pm.

​A notice on the Funeral Times website describes Ms Elliott as the “much loved and loving mum to Stefin, Curtis and Sophia. Devoted nana to Callie. Beloved daughter of Linda and Harold. Dear sister of David”.

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The Community Rescue Service (CRS) Belfast District reported a “sad conclusion to LIsburn search” in a post on Facebook.

The message states: “CRS volunteers were tasked to the Lisburn area to search for a person missing from the early evening of the 5th March, and continued to carry out planned searches each day and into the night since that time.

"Over the course of the search we were assisted by colleagues from Search & Rescue Dog Association – SARDA Ireland North and Sky Watch NI who were tasked to provide their support to the search effort.”

The message adds: “We regret to inform you that in the late afternoon of Monday, 1st April, a CRS team located a body believed to be that of the missing person.”

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