Gun used to kill Lyra McKee found in Derry, police confirm
A GUN recovered during a planned search in Derry at the weekend has been confirmed as the weapon that killed 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee.
Ballistic tests carried out on the German made Hammerli Esse automatic handgun show it was the same weapon fired four times by a 'New IRA' gunman, during disturbances in the Creggan estate in April 2019.
Further and more extensive forensic testing is now underway to link the gun to the person suspected of firing the fatal shot.
The weapon will also undergo testing to see if it can be linked to any one of up to 16 other suspects, involved in ordering, planning and clearing up after the shooting.
It represents a major breakthrough in the murder investigation.
Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said: "This investigation was never about one particular strand, it was never simply about forensics, it was never simply about witnesses, it was never simply about video evidence.
"It was about a combination of all of component parts, so this is a very important moment for us investigatively.
"Weapons and munitions are valuable commodities for terrorist groups, so it doesn't come as any great surprise that they would have liked to keep as much weaponry as they possibly can".
Mr Murphy added: "The New IRA must understand I know exactly who they are. I know who the gunman was and I know an awful lot about the events of that night. The work of me and my investigating team is securing the evidence that enables me to prove it evidentially."
Police believe the murder weapon jammed twice on the night of the disturbances, once after two shots were fired at a static police Land Rover and then a second when two more rounds were fired. It is believed one of these was the fatal shot.
Ms McKee had been standing close to the Land Rover with friends observing the disturbance when she was struck.
Detective Superintendent Murphy said: "When I was looking at the video of how the gunman was operating that night, it suddenly dawned on me that the outside of the weapon might not be the most important thing here.
"There is a reasonable expectation that these things get wiped down once they've been used.
"When you see him try to clear the stoppage in the gun, he may well have touched the inside parts of the gun. He may well have cut himself as the slide goes back, so there are lots of different possibilities.
"There are at least 17 names on my list from the very start of this investigation in terms of what happened that night and I'll be looking to establish whether any of those 17 names appear forensically on that gun, or for that matter anybody else.
"The detailed forensic work is going to take us some considerable time, and the reason for that is I've asked for a very intricate examination of the inside as well as the outside of the gun.
"We want to make sure that the evidence that we have has an integrity around it."
The family of the north Belfast writer and activist, who had been living in Derry with her partner at the time of her death, have already been informed about the discovery. They are said to be relieved the murder weapon has been taken off the streets.
Police have said a bomb was also discovered during the search in the Ballymagroarty area of the city last Friday and Saturday and was fully primed for an imminent attack.
"They way in which it was left in that field shows a real callousness to that community," said Mr Murphy.
"They left that weapon in a position were it could have been found by kids out playing. They've left a gun and ammunition together, they've created a risk for that whole community."
The senior detective added: "The response from Creggan and further afield has been positive. Notwithstanding people are frightened and I understand why, they are sick, sore and tired of them.
"I don't see it (Derry) as a stronghold I see it as a stranglehold and I think those two things are very different.
"In terms of the New IRA, I set out on day one to conduct a very sensitive, constructive investigation in recognition of sometimes you have to do things slowly and quietly to gain recognition of the public so they can continue to give you the information they have, and I think that's really paid off."