Northern Ireland

Community activist tells of ‘Lyra’s blood on his hands’

Emmet Doyle tells murder trial he thought Lyra was ‘a child’ because she was so small

Lyra McKee was shot dead while observing a riot in Derry in 2019
Lyra McKee was shot dead while observing a riot in Derry in 2019 (Family handout/PA)

A community activist who tended to Lyra McKee in the moments after she was shot during a riot in Derry, described how he saw a “perfect, small circle” on her temple as she lay on the ground.

The journalist and author lost her life after being struck in the head by a bullet as she stood on Fanad Drive in Creggan observed rioting on the evening of Friday April 19, 2019.

The New IRA admitted responsibility for the 29-year-old’s murder.

Emmet Doyle - a former councillor and community activist - described the aftermath of the shooting at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday.

Mr Doyle said he was aware of a police operation in Creggan that evening and that a house was being searched.

He said a large crowd of young people had gathered and he feared there would be trouble.

Questioned by a Crown barrister about the events that night, Mr Doyle said that after making his way to Fanad Drive he noted a crowd throwing bottles, stones and petrol bombs at police Land Rovers.

When asked how the people standing on the footpath at Fanad Drive reacted to petrol bombs being thrown, he said: “I think that most people felt they were probably further enough away and anything that was thrown was directed at police vehicles so I don’t necessarily think anyone felt particularly a threat.”

Mr Doyle said that prior to shots being fired, he saw someone at the corner of Fanad Drive and Central Drive raise their right hand and shout “something along the lines of Up the IRA or victory to the IRA.”

The witness said he saw other people join this man, and that he then saw “a small firearm” being produced.

Mr Doyle told the non-jury hearing that he saw a person firing at the police vehicles parked on that street from the corner.

“I remember seeing the flash and hearing a pop noise and I think I remember there was a gap between the next number of shots.”

Mr Doyle recalled hearing “two or three” other shots before hearing a scream to the right of him.

“Once I heard the scream I moved up to where Lyra, who I didn’t know, was lying between the front and back wheels of a Land Rover.

“I remember that her partner Sara was on her knees at that point. I got up beside Sara, I noticed ... in first view I thought it was a child because she was so small... Sara was very upset of course.”

When asked when he became aware of the seriousness of the situation, Mr Doyle said: “I thought maybe she had been hit by a stone because of the way she had fallen..

“But I remember that Sara has moved Lyra’s hair to one side, she was touching her face. I had tried to do the same and I noticed there was a perfect, small circle in her right temple.”

Mr Doyle said the action of moving Ms McKee’s hair left her blood on his hands.

He said he then took his coat off in a bid to put it under Ms McKee’s head.

Mr Doyle said he and another person banged on the door of the Land Rover and when a police officer opened the door, “he immediately understood what the situation was, that someone had been hurt.”

He continued: “A group of people who had come from the back of the Land Rover, a number of residents, lifted Lyra at this stage ... and the police officer who opened the door ... Lyra was placed in the footwell very quickly but carefully.

“The two doors closed, the blue lights on the Land Rover were switched on and it took off at high speed down the street and down to the lower end of Fanad Drive and onto the hospital.”

Three Derry men have been charged with Lyra’s murder, possessing a firearm and ammunition and other linked offences including rioting and both possessing and throwing petrol bombs.

The trio are Paul McIntyre (56) from Kells Walk, 23-year old Jordan Devine from Bishop Street and Peter Cavanagh (35) from Mary Street. It’s the Crown’s case that whilst none of these three defendants were the gunman who fired the fatal shot that killed Lyra, their actions at the scene “are demonstrative of their involvement in the joint enterprise to possess and fire the weapon with the requisite intent for murder.”

Seven co-accused, also from Derry, are facing charges including rioting and throwing petrol bombs.

All ten defendants have denied the charges levelled against them. At hearing