Detectives have reopened an investigation into the rape and murder of a young mother found beaten to death after a night out in a loyalist club almost 30 years ago.
Mother-of-two Lorraine McCausland, 23, was found beside a stream in the Forthriver area of north Belfast in the early hours of March 8 1987.
She had been for a night out and was last seen in a nearby loyalist club at Tyndale.
Detective Inspector Michelle Griffin said a cold case review had identified “potential new lines of inquiry”.
Fourteen arrests were made during the original police investigation but no-one was charged.
Ms Griffin said the “shadow of loyalist paramilitarism” hung over the case, making witnesses fearful of coming forward.
“It is our assessment that Lorraine had been enjoying a night out with friends and ended up in a loyalist drinking club at Tyndale,” she said.
“We believe she was raped in the club and later savagely beaten inside and outside the premises before her partially clothed body was dumped on open ground beside a nearby river.
“This was a merciless beating of a vulnerable young woman. It has had a profound effect on her family. It would also have had a lasting impact on the people who witnessed these events 29 years ago. The people involved in this attack are still at large.”
Officers are distributing leaflets in the immediate area of the incident to highlight the reinvestigation. They appealed to those with information about the events of the night to come forward.
“I am appealing to anyone who was in the club on the night of Saturday March 7 and the early hours of Sunday 8 March 1987,” said Ms Griffin.
“It’s a long time ago but I’m sure everyone who was there still carries those memories. They will probably never leave them.
“I want them to think about what happened that night: the brutal rape and subsequent murder of a defenceless, vulnerable young woman who left her home in Forthriver Crescent for a night out with some friends and ended up being savagely beaten.
“Lorraine was a popular member of the local community. She had worked as a stitcher and then in her sister’s mobile shop. Everybody in the area knew Lorraine and liked her for her personality and kindness. But some people have been reluctant to assist with the investigation into her rape and murder.
“The shadow of loyalist paramilitarism hangs over this case. I believe people have been reluctant to tell the truth about that night, what they saw and heard, what they know, because they are frightened.
“I understand their fear but I believe there are ways of dealing with this and providing a mechanism to enable people to come forward and tell us what they know about the events of that night so that we can get justice for Lorraine and her family.
“Times have changed, people and personalities have changed. I would ask those people who have information to ask themselves if they are now in a position to help a victim and her family get the truth and secure justice.
“I would ask anyone with information to talk to police. We will do everything in our power to ensure they do so in safety and confidence.”
As well as making 14 arrests, detectives on the original investigation conducted 29 searches and took more than 100 witness statements. A total of 107 exhibits were submitted for forensic examination and 45 exhibits subjected to examination by fingerprint experts.
Ms Griffin said: “Much work has already been done on this investigation. We are seeking to obtain the additional and crucial information from people in the community who can help Lorraine and her family achieve closure and justice.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact detectives from Serious Crime Branch on the non-emergency 101 number. Alternatively, people who do not wish to leave their personal details can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
Ms McCausland’s son, Craig, was murdered in North Belfast in 2005 during a spate of killings linked to a loyalist paramilitary feud.
Ms Griffin said members of the UDA were suspected in the young mother’s murder.
She said some of those who were in the loyalist social club that night no longer lived in Northern Ireland.
The senior detective said the latest technology was being used to examine DNA evidence linked to the case.
Ms McCausland’s sister, Cathy McIlvenny, asked for those with information to examine their consciences.
“This devastated the whole family,” she said.
“I would like to thank the PSNI at the minute because this investigation has given us hope that we haven’t had over the past 29 years.”
She added: “Remember this was not a paramilitary or a Troubles-related murder - this was a sexual attack and beating.”