Northern Ireland news

Post-mortems due today for two men found dead lying side-by-side in Ballymena

Police at Drumtara estate in Ballymena on Sunday morning. Picture by Matt Bohill (Pacemaker)

THE families of two men found lying dead "side-by-side" outside flats in a Co Antrim housing estate were last night still awaiting medical reports to reveal the cause of death.

Mark McPeake (51) and father-of-four Rodney McDowell (43) were found at around 7.30am on Sunday at the Drumtara flats in the Ballee area of Ballymena.

It is understood that Mr McDowell lived at the address.

Mr McPeake's brother Jimmy told friends on social media that there were "two bodies found at the flats this morning side by side. One was my loving brother Mark and his mate".

"Family is devastated to receive this news a few hours ago."

Yesterday, he reported that the family were still awaiting the bodies' release and the results of a post mortem examination, which will take place today.

"Rest easy bro no more pain," Mr McPeake wrote.

Mark McPeake (51) had been battling alcoholism for many years

DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley jnr said yesterday that there may be a prescription drug link to the deaths.

Mr McPeake had been battling alcoholism for many years, and reportedly spiralled into a more destructive pattern of behaviour after suffering serious burns in a "flame-thower attack" in 2013 after one drinking session.

Two men who were at a party he was attending used an aerosol and a lighter to burn Mr McPeake and left him needing surgery for his injuries.

They were both jailed for the assault, which they claimed was a prank that went wrong.

A defence lawyer told Ballymena magistrates court that these had contributed to an attack on police officers at Portrush two years later.

McPeake admitted being disorderly at a takeaway in Dunluce Street and headbutting a police officer in the face, and spitting in the face of another officer.

When the lawyer said his client has had a lengthy battle with alcohol, District Judge Des Perry remarked that he could be considered to be losing the battle before jailing him for four months.

Rodney McDowell (43) was found `side-by-side' with his friend outside his home on Sunday morning

Yesterday, mayor of Mid and East Antrim Paul Reid has expressed his condolences to the families.

"This tragedy has sent shock waves throughout the town and across Mid and East Antrim," the DUP councillor said.

"My heartfelt sympathy and condolences go to these men's families and friends. They are in our thoughts and prayers at this awful time.

"I have been in discussions with senior PSNI officers who are pursuing lines of enquiry.

"I appeal to anybody with any information to contact police."

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