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Police say more than one person involved in journalist Lyra McKee's murder in Derry

  Journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead in Derry
Digital Staff

Police have said they believe more than one person was involved in the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last night.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin was speaking outside the Guildhall this afternoon following the killing of Ms McKee (29) at around 11pm during rioting in the Creggan.

Mr Martin said: "We certainly believe there was more than one person involved in this last night. Obviously only one person pulled the trigger but there was more than one person involved in the murder.

"The full and total responsibility for Lyra McKee's death lies with the organisation that sent someone out with a gun."

Police have said they believe the New IRA was "most likely" behind the shooting of the 29-year-old.

Mr Martin also defended police searches that led to the disorder, saying the PSNI were moving to prevent future dissident republican attacks. Police came under attack from petrol bombs during the violence.

"We carried out that search activity last night because we believed that there were people in this city who, over the weekend, were going to mount murderous attacks on the police and perhaps even other events, such as that which we saw with the bomb attack in January on Bishop's Street," he said.

 

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"Before I came here today, I read the intelligence that led to that search activity. I wanted to come and talk to the people of this city and say that I read it myself, I convinced myself of the urgency to carry out that search activity- and I am convinced."

"When we engage in that type of activity we don't do it lightly, we understand the impact it can have on a community."

Mr Martin also appealed to the New IRA to step away from violence.

"As well as making an appeal today for people to come forward with what they know to assist the investigation, I have another appeal today," he said. "There are people in this city who will know that the people they love are involved in organisations like the New IRA.

"I would urge those people to have conversations in their home, in their family space, in Lyra's memory, to urge people they love to step away from such violence," he continued. To step away from such organisations and to recognise how out of step they are of the wishes of the people of this city and this island."

"There is no doubt that the people behind last night's violence on the streets of this city, who threw dozens of petrol bombs at officers, who hijacked and set on fire vehicles had one aim - they set out to kill and take the life of a police officer - tragically they took the life of a talented young writer.

"We have now launched a murder investigation to find the gunman who murdered Lyra and bring those responsible for the orchestrated violence that has been shown on television screens around the world to justice. And this is where now, more than ever, we need the public to help us.

The scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident"  

"I want to make a direct appeal to the people who know who carried out this murder, to the people who know those who goaded young people to put their lives and futures on the line, the people prepared to bring murder and mayhem onto the streets of this city - you need to do the right thing.

"You have to help make this madness stop. Please, pick up the phone and make a difference."

Mayor of Derry John Boyle described Ms McKee's death as a "dreadful murder".

 "We've come here to join together with one voice to say that these events did not happen in the name of the people of this city."

He said of the 29-year-old victim: "I've known Lyra McKee since she was 16-years-old. She was bright, she was warm, she was witty but most of all she was an outstanding individual.

The scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident" 

"We are brokenhearted for her family and their loss."

Mr Boyle said people in Derry had clearly opposed the actions of those behind the shooting.

"There's an awful lot of anger in this city today it has to be said again this was not done in the name of the people of this city," he said. 

Flowers at the scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee who was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident" 

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton told a press conference this morning that police believe the attack was carried out by "violent dissident republicans", adding: "Our assessment at this time would be that the New IRA is the most likely to be behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry." 

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He added: "Unfortunately, at 11pm last night, a gunman appeared and fired a number of shots towards police and a young woman, Lyra McKee, 29-years-old, was wounded.

"She was taken away in a police Land Rover to Altnagelvin Hospital but unfortunately she has died there. We have now launched a murder inquiry here in the city."

Mr Hamilton continued: "Can I say also, I want to pass my deepest sympathies to the family of Ms McKee, this is a horrendous act, it is unnecessary, it is uncalled for, it's totally unjustified.

"But not only is it a murder of a young woman, it is an attack again on the people of this city.

"I stood here in January and we talked about the bomb and the act of violence against this city, and yet again we see another act of violence in this city which has had horrendous consequences and which will affect people for many, many years.

"I would appeal to people, particularly this Easter weekend, to stay calm, I would appeal to people who are intent on violence to draw back, I would appeal to people with influence to use your influence and make sure this is peaceful weekend. Not only this weekend but going forward in this city.

"These acts of violence are bringing nothing to this city, all they are doing is bringing misery to one family, but also particularly to this city and also to our broader province."

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The senior police officer went on to appeal for information and witnesses to come forward.

"If people have information, I would appeal to you to bring it forward, you can ring Crimestoppers, you can ring 101 and ask for police at Strand Road," he said.

"We need people who saw this happen to come forward. We also will be putting out a portal for people to upload videos they may have taken, I know a lot of this is already circulating on social media.

"I would ask people to be sensitive to the family, someone has lost their life and the last thing that family needs is to see that played over and over again.

"I would have people who have videos show sensitivity, either not show them or share them with police so we can use them in our murder inquiry to try and track down the people who have committed this horrendous crime."

Police have asked that anyone with footage of the shooting to upload it via this link.

Responding to a question about the current level of threat from dissident republican terrorists and whether the incident was orchestrated, Mr Hamilton said he believed it was orchestrated but "clearly reckless".

"It was orchestrated to the point where they just want to have violence and want to primarily, on this occasion, to attack police. But the bringing of a firearm out and firing it down a street in a residential area where they knew lots of people were standing about is a calculated and callous act."

Ms McKee was a journalist who wrote for publications including The Atlantic and Buzzfeed and had recently moved to Derry to live with her partner.

She was from north Belfast and had worked as an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry.

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of their 30 under 30 in media.

She had been working on a new book which had been due to be published in 2020.

Seamus Dooley of the National Union of Journalists said the organisation was "shocked by (the) killing of a journalist of courage, style and integrity".

The Society of Editors has added its voice to the condemnation.

Offering its heartfelt condolences to Lyra's family, friends and colleagues, the society said her tragic death was an example of how journalists all too often found themselves reporting from the frontline and putting their lives in danger to cover the news.

"Lyra was a tremendous talent and the journalistic world has lost one of its bright hopes for the future," the society's Executive Director Ian Murraysaid

"The death of anyone under such circumstances is to be roundly condemned, but for those of us working in the media it is terrible to lose such a fantastic colleague.

"We send our condolences to Lyra's family, friends and colleagues at this appalling time."

Ms McKee has also been described as a "hero" to many in the LBGT community. John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said Ms McKee's had supported people in coming out and used her own story to empower others.

Petrol bombs are thrown at police in Creggan, Derry 

 

 

Journalist Leona O'Neill said she was at the scene of the killing.

Writing on Twitter, she said: "I was standing beside this young woman when she fell beside a police Land Rover tonight in Creggan #Derry.

"I called an ambulance for her but police put her in the back of their vehicle and rushed her to hospital where she died. Just 29 years old. Sick to my stomach tonight."

 

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The unrest comes ahead of the Easter weekend where republicans mark the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, a time when dissidents are traditionally active.

Politicians have widely condemned the killing with the five main parties issuing a joint statement. This afternoon senior politicians from a number of parties attended a vigil in Creggan where Ms McKee's partner described how her death "must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else's life and her legacy will live on in the light that she has left behind".

Sara Canning said Ms McKee's "hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act".

 Sara Canning, the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, spoke at a rally in Derry's Creggan estate today. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

A hijacked car explodes after being set on fire in Creggan, Derry 

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the killing in Derry was a "senseless loss of life".

She said: "I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.

"The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.

"I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman.

"We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry."

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DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted: "Heartbreaking news. A senseless act. A family has been torn apart.

"Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019.

"No one wants to go back. My thoughts are also with the brave officers who stood in defence of their community."

Gary Middleton, a DUP former deputy mayor of Derry City Council and current Member of the Legislative Assembly, tweeted: "Disgraceful scenes of violence in the Creggan estate tonight.

Journalist Lyra McKee gives a Ted talk in 2017 on religious intolerance

"PSNI and members of the public being put in danger by unrepresentative thugs intent on destroying communities."

Mark H Durkan, SDLP MLA for Foyle, said he was left "heartbroken and angry" by the killing.

"Just leaving Creggan, heartbroken and angry at the senseless loss of a young life," he tweeted.

"Violence (only creates victims, that's all it ever has done. The thoughts and prayers of our city are with the young woman's family and friends, may she rest in peace."

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said Ms McKee's death was "shocking and tragic".

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Lyra McKee today," he said.

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President Michael D Higgins said his thoughts were with Ms McKee's family.

"The people of Ireland will have heard with both shock, outrage and great sadness of the killing of the young journalist Lyra McKee in Derry last evening - a woman of talent and commitment, who was shot exercising her profession," he said.

"Sabina and I sent our deepest sympathies to her family and friends and to all those who knew her and worked with her."

Lyra McKee: 'A rising star of investigative journalism'

Journalist Lyra McKee tweeted about the "absolute madness" in Derry in the hours before she was shot dead last night.

Ms McKee (29) rose to prominence in 2014 after a blog post called "Letter to my 14-year-old self" in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast.

In the five years since, her letter was turned into a short film, she became a published author with Angels With Blue Faces, and had recently signed a two-book deal with Faber & Faber, as well as appearing in domestic and international publications.

Named as one of the "30 under 30 in media" by Forbes Magazine in 2016, Ms McKee was cited for her passion of "dig(ging) into topics that others don't care about".

Angels With Blue Faces, a non-fiction book about the Troubles-era cold case murder of South Belfast MP Rev Robert Bradford, was released in 2018 and her latest book, The Lost Boys, is due for publication by Faber & Faber next year.

The book, which described the author as a "rising star of investigative journalism", focuses on the story of Thomas Spence and John Rodgers, who vanished near the Falls Road in west Belfast in November 1974.

In an earlier piece about the book, agent Janklow and Nesbit said: "Lyra is a 27-year-old investigative journalist who grew up on Belfast's Cliftonville Road, just off the infamous Murder Mile, the area which saw more casualties per square foot than any other part of the city during the Troubles.

"Lyra is fascinated by the recent history of the city; her focus as a journalist is the indirect ways the violence of war plays out, through its secondary waves of victims, and through the way trauma is passed on to subsequent generations.

"Like Anna Funder's Stasiland and Andy O'Hagan's The Missing, The Lost Boys will be an investigation, but also a portrait of a place; of Belfast and of the Troubles, at the first moment in time where it's become possible to write about them historically (as well as, alas, a moment where tensions are rising once again)."

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