Renewed appeal over Kerr murder

Mon, Feb 20, 2012, 00:00

A terrorist gang that murdered a policeman in Northern Ireland has been linked to nine other dissident republican crimes, a senior detective has revealed.

Making a fresh bid for public help to catch the killers of Constable Ronan Kerr, the officer leading the investigation said he believed members of the group were also responsible for another murder bid on police, other dissident attacks, armed robberies and a major arms find.

PSNI detective superintendent Raymond Murray also said some of the gang had previously been affiliated with other dissident factions.

No one has yet been charged with the murder.

Constable Kerr (25) died when a booby trap bomb detonated under his car in Omagh, Co Tyrone as he was leaving for work last April.

A group claiming it was made up of former members of the Provisional IRA said it was responsible for murdering the newly qualified Catholic officer.

Targeted in a bid to scare other nationalists from joining the PSNI, the officer’s mother Nuala urged would-be Catholic recruits to stand up against the dissidents in the days after her son’s death.

Mr Murray said he needed help to identify 11 cars and an unknown man spotted close to Mr Kerr’s home in Highfield Close in Omagh in the days before the attack.

“We know that the bombers had to come into that development to carry out that attack. I would ask the public to help us to catch those brutal killers and put them away,” he said. “These vehicles and the man are significant for one of two reasons. They are either valuable witnesses or potential suspects. That is why we need anyone who knows anything about these appeals to come forward so that we can progress the investigation.”

A £50,000 reward is still on offer from independent charity Crimestoppers for information that leads to the conviction of Constable Kerr’s killers.

Mr Murray said the investigation was the largest undertaken by the police in Northern Ireland since the 1998 Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people.

“It is very, very active and we have a number of lines of enquiry,” he said. “We believe there were 10 linked incidents with the murder of Ronan Kerr at the very core of it. We are 10 months into this investigation but there is a long way to go. We have trawled through an enormous amount of information obtained from our enquiries and material gleaned from previous appeals. But there are still gaps which we are endeavouring to close in terms of building up a complete picture of the events leading up to the explosion.”

Police investigating the murder have carried out 56 searches and made 10 arrests to date. In the days after the murder they uncovered a major arms dump at Coalisland, Co Tyrone. One man has been charged in regard to that find.

Mr Murray said a comprehensive forensic strategy was being progressed involving hundreds of exhibits being submitted for examination at laboratories in Northern Ireland, the UK and the United States.

He said house-to-house enquiries in Omagh would continue. “I would ask people, particularly in Omagh, to take a small amount of time to study our appeal map in the media or on the PSNI website and see if they can help in any way,” said Mr Murray.

The investigation incident room can be contacted on 028 8225 6687.

PA