Vigil for Chloe Mitchell hears call for end to gender violence

Mourners gathered outside Belfast City Hall to pay respects to murdered woman and advocate for women’s safety

A vigil has been held in Belfast for murdered Chloe Mitchell (21) – and to call for an end to gender-based violence. Mourners gathered outside City Hall on Wednesday evening to pay their respects to Ms Mitchell and advocate for women’s safety.

A second vigil is being held in King George’s Park in Ms Mitchell’s hometown of Ballymena. Ms Mitchell was last seen on CCTV in the James Street area of Ballymena in the early hours of June 3rd. A search operation was launched, with Community Rescue Service volunteers scouring steep banks around the River Braid. The search was called off after suspected human remains were found in Ballymena.

One man has appeared in court charged with Ms Mitchell’s murder while a second has been charged with assisting an offender. When they appeared in court on June 12th, counsel for both defendants cited “significant mental health” difficulties.

At the vigil for Ms Mitchell, representatives from Women’s Aid and social feminist movement Rosa held banners and signs saying “End violence against women and girls now”.


Family members of Natalie McNally, who was murdered in December 2022, when she was 15 weeks pregnant, were also present.

The crowd chanted: “When women’s lives are under attack, stand up, fight back.” A minute’s silence was then held.

Several speakers highlighted the fact Chloe Mitchell is the 18th woman to be killed in Northern Ireland since 2020.

Sonya McMullan, regional services manager for Women’s Aid, said there is an incident of domestic abuse every 16 minutes in Northern Ireland and called on politicians to return to work to take action against gendered violence.

The Stormont government has not been operational for over a year due to the DUP’s ongoing boycott in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements.

“We’ve some of the highest rates [of domestic violence] in the UK and some of the highest rates of femicide or domestic homicide in the whole of Europe per head of population, so it’s simply not good enough,” she said.

“What does it take for our politicians to, you know, listen up and come back to work and do something about this?

“We are the only part of the UK that doesn’t have a violence against women and girls strategy. And why is that? Why are we so different? It shouldn’t be a postcard lottery in relation to this.

“And so I suppose we’re really calling out and calling our politicians to come out and be brave and to come back to work.

“Because for women and girls it’s about being safe on the streets – but it’s also about being safe behind closed doors as well.”

SDLP MP Claire Hanna attended the Belfast vigil and said a political strategy is needed to address violence against women and girls.

“It can’t be a coincidence that this is one of the only places without a strategy to address gender-based violence and that we have the highest and rising rates,” she said.

“These two things are dangerous because if you aren’t reporting and analysing and strategising these things, they don’t get done.

“It’s a consequence of our stop-start government. It’s the consequence of keeping it down for years at a time that everyday legislation doesn’t get done.

“There is a strategy there, it has been consulted on but it needs ministers to take it forward and it needs a serious level of funding.

“And that’s all possible if we want to ensure that we’re not back here in weeks or months again, mourning the life of another woman, then it needs to be done.”

Ms Mitchell is survived by her parents, two older sisters and two older brothers.

In advance of the vigils, Ms Mitchell’s older brother Phillip Mitchell told the BBC: “I think it’s amazing the way the community, not just the Ballymena and Harryville community but every community and further afield, has come together in memory of my wee sister Chloe.

“I wouldn’t want any family to go through this. It’s just a living hell, really, and there’s no words.”

Ms Mitchell’s sister Nadine Mitchell said Chloe “was special because she touched so many hearts”.

She added: “I’ve not only lost my sister but I’ve lost my best friend.”

Detectives from the PSNI major investigation team said they are aware of graphic videos and texts containing inaccurate information circulating on social media.

A PSNI spokesman said the content is distressing to Ms Mitchell’s family and the public discussion over where human remains have been found should stop.