Post-mortems to take place on friends found dead in Ballymena

Police are investigating the circumstances of the deaths of two men in the Ballee area of Ballymena at the weekend
Police are investigating the circumstances of the deaths of two men in the Ballee area of Ballymena at the weekend

Post-mortem examinations are due to take place on Tuesday on two men who were found dead in Ballymena, Co Antrim at the weekend.

An investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding the deaths on Sunday morning at Drumtara in the town’s Ballee area.

The men were named locally as Rodney McDowell, aged 43 and his 51-year-old friend Mark McPeake.

It is understood the bodies were found outside the entrance to Mr McDowell’s home, with one lying in the porch and the other on the path outside.

Speaking on Sunday, North Antrim MLA Jim Allister believed the deaths were linked to drugs, adding that it was a “chilling reminder of the scourge of drugs in our community”.

Police have refused to comment on speculation that the deaths were drugs-related.

When asked for a comment regarding Mr Allister’s remarks, a PSNI spokesperson responded: “Police inquiries are ongoing and we await the results of the post-mortem examinations.”

The post-mortem examinations will be carried out on Tuesday, police confirmed.

Tributes have been paid to the pair on social media, with Mr McPeake’s brother James stating his family has been left “devastated”.

He posted on Facebook: “Rest easy bro no more pain.

“Still under investigation not to sure what has happened yet but you will find out sooner than later.”

Ballymena football club Harryville Homers expressed their “deepest sympathies and condolences” to Mr McPeake’s son, Mark McKay, who plays for the club.️

Meanwhile, paying tribute to Mr McDowell, one person wrote: “Sleep tight Rodney, you were a gentle soul, who spoke to everyone, and just wanted to be happy.”

DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said the deaths were a stark reminder of the dangers of drug abuse.

He added: “The deaths of these two men is extremely sad and tragic, no matter what the circumstances. Drugs are a curse on society, creating misery and heartache.

“In the midst of all of this, we have to remember that these men had families and we need to show our compassion.

“My heart goes out to them at this difficult time.”

In his statement on Sunday, TUV leader Mr Allister said: “Families are left to grieve while the importers and dealers fade into the background.

“It is time these importers and dealers were hunted down. There are those in the community with knowledge. They need to come forward.”

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Paul Reid, said the deaths “sent shockwaves” through the town and appealed for anyone with information to contact police.

He added: “My heartfelt sympathy and condolences go to these men’s families and friends.”