Killer who hid child’s body in coalbunker for five years living beside nursery

Remorseless James Junior Craig out of prison after 21 years for shocking 1991 murder of Belfast schoolgirl

Killer James Junior Craig outside the Co Armagh hostel he has been placed in by authorities. PIC BY CONOR MCCAUGHLEY

THIS is the remorseless child killer who has set up home just metres away from a playgroup in a busy Co Armagh town.

James Junior Craig – who murdered a schoolgirl and left her body to rot in a coalbunker for five years – has been released from prison and is living care-free in Portadown.

Pictured today for the first time, the Sunday World can reveal how the coalbunker killer (47) still refuses to apologise to his 13 year-old victim’s heartbroken family, who to this day don’t know why he brutally bludgeoned her to death.

The evil murderer was recently released from prison after spending 21 years behind bars for the heartless killing of 13 year-old Sonia Forsythe.

The Girls’ Model pupil from the Shankill area, went missing from her Sydney Street West home in June 1991.

Her badly decomposed body was found nearly five years later wrapped in carpet inside a coalbunker at the back of neighbour Craig’shome.

The then 19 year-old had been living in a flat on the same street as Sonia’s family when she mysteriously disappeared.

She was last seen walking down the street with the Shankill shop worker and into his apartment.
When workmen discovered her remains five years later in April 1996, the schoolgirl could only be identified through her dental records.

A postmortem examination revealed she’d been struck a number of times with a blunt object.

A poker matching the shape of indents on her skull was later found in Craig’s flat, which he had firebombed in a crude attempt to hide evidence.
In 1998 a jury found him unanimously guilty and he was sentenced to life behind bars.

But today, 28 years after he killed the schoolgirl in cold blood, Craig is out and living happily amongst local residents in Portadown.

Housed in an ex-offender’s hostel in the town centre, he is living just metres away from a busy pre-school.

Last week the Sunday World watched on as unsuspecting parents picked up their children as the evil child killer walked about nearby.

Sonia Forsythe

It is understood the aspiring chef, who is housed alongside a number of other dangerous offenders, has been living in the area since late last year.

That news will no doubt send a chill down the spine of parents who would have no clue about Craig’s sordid past as they regularly pass him on the street.

On Friday we confronted the 47 year-old after he left his hostel digs to take an afternoon trip to a nearby shopping centre.

We asked him if he would finally apologise to Sonia’s family, including her heartbroken mum Audrey, and admit to why he callously killed the innocent 13 year-old.

He refused, tutting and shaking his head, before walking off to enjoy his time around the shops.
At a 2008 tariff hearing into the length of time Craig should ultimately spend behind bars, the Royal Courts of Justice heard further details about the murder case that shocked Ulster.

That included how a year-and-a-half after he killed Sonia, Craig was convicted of assaulting a child.

A moving letter was also read out to Lord Chief Justice Kerr from the schoolgirl’s devastated mum, who said her daughter’s death hadwrecked her family and led to the premature deaths of her husband and father.

Audrey Forsythe also told how she had twice attempted suicide over losing Sonia.

She said her other daughter Nicola is now the only immediate family she has left.

Mrs Forsythe added that because Craig still refused to admit his part in the killing, that the questions surrounding the murder had deepened and prolonged her grief.

Sunday World article

During his original trial, Craig claimed he’d been ‘framed’ for the murder by a sophisticated plan on the part of an unknown person or persons

But it took a jury just 37 minutes to find him guilty of murder.
The trial had previously heard how Sonia was last spotted walking down the street with loner Craig on June 30, 1991 – the night shedisappeared.

A self-confessed nosey neighbour told the court how she watched the then 19 year-old enter his flat with the schoolgirl and sit with her on his settee.

Craig maintained he’d simply walked the young girl to a pub, before leaving her to her front door.

At the time the heartless killer even cooperated with a police reconstruction of Sonia disappearance.

It was only five years later when police inspector Mervyn Bryans took over the case that a break through was finally made.

After re-interviewing her mother and neighbours a forensic search of Craig’s house discovered blood stains in a cupboard and a bedroom which matched the DNA of the missing girl.
The next day, before detectives could return to the scene, there was a petrol bomb attack on the house and Craig disappeared to England.
Three weeks later Housing Executive workmen clearing up the fire mess found Sonia’s decomposed body rolled up carpet inside a coalbunker.
Experts using sellotape were able to take fibre samples from Craig’s floor showed the carpets surrounding her had once sat in his home.

Speaking outside Belfast Crown Court in 1998moments after Craig was handed a life sentence for murder, Audrey Forsythe described her daughter as a “loving and open child”.
“Justice is not done for me, because Sonia cannot return after 15 or 20 years,” she said.

“Craig can receive visits from his parents, yet I have only a grave and a headstone to visit.”


Published by Patricia Devlin

Award winning journalist based in Ireland covering crime and investigations.

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