THE family of a Glengormley man who drowned in the Lagan following a night out in Belfast have said they will continue to fight for answers to questions they have about the resulting search and rescue operation.
Joby Murphy fell into the river from the Lagan Weir footbridge last January. He had been making his way back into the city centre following a night out with friends at the Odyssey complex.
The 20-year-old hotel worker had been drinking cheap shots of vodka in one of the Odyssey’s nightclubs shortly before falling into the river on his way home.
He was last seen struggling to climb aboard a boat moored in the harbour before being lost.
Following an extensive search operation Joby’s body was recovered from the harbour, not far from where he fell in, four weeks after his disappearance.
On Monday his friends and family gathered at the location and time - 1.06pm - his body was found in Belfast harbour to pay their respects.
Joby’s father Joe said: “It was a quiet peaceful service to remember our son and friend.
“We stood there with flowers and threw them on the spot his body lay for so long and just remembered the character Joby was for about an hour and a half.
“It’s a year has gone since we lost Joby and it’s a strange felling.
“People say it gets better with time, but it’s just a different feeling - we still miss him.”
Following the search and recovery of Joby the family have raised a number of issues about concerns they had around the entire police-led operation.
Last week police officers were disciplined over a bungled search operation after a Bangor man went missing at the Ulster Hospital.
The man’s body was discovered just 40 metres away from where he was last seen 10 weeks earlier.
Joe added: “There are similarities between the search for him and our Joby. To me it just felt that my son was not important enough and they just gave up.
“We had to constantly fight to get our own search people involved.
“People that are experts in searching for people volunteered their services, but they were dismissed by the police.
“And in the end after the police had given up it was the volunteers that found our Joby.
“Had he been found earlier, we might have been able to properly say goodbye to our son.”
Since Joby’s tragic death the family have raised money for specialist equipment to be installed in Belfast harbour to help future search operations.
They have also written to Chief Constable Matt Baggott asking for a meeting with him personally to get the answers they feel they deserve about the search operation.
“We received a letter,” continued Joe, “to say he had received the letter, but nothing since, so a complaint has been lodged with the Police Ombudsman.
“It should not be the case that we should have to raise these issues in the press all the time, we have asked for the meetings to get the answers and we are determined to continue the fight to get them.”