Gun of same type used to kill Lyra McKee found in Derry

Bomb in lunchbox among weapons discovered near a children’s den in two-day search

Lyra McKee (29) was shot while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in April 2019. Photograph: Jess Lowe

Lyra McKee (29) was shot while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in April 2019. Photograph: Jess Lowe

 

A handgun of the same type and calibre as the weapon used to murder Lyra McKee has been found during police searches in Derry.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) district commander, Chief Supt Emma Bond, said while it was an “encouraging line of inquiry”, police “cannot definitively say at this time whether or not this is the murder weapon”.

Speaking at a press conference in Derry on Sunday, Chief Supt Bond told reporters that the gun would be subject to extensive forensic examination, including fingerprint and DNA testing, to establish if it was the gun used to kill McKee. “That determination will be guided by the forensics,” she said.

A bomb which was primed and ready to be used and a quantity of ammunition were also found during searches of 38 acres of land, predominantly fields, between the Ballymagroarty estate and the Whitehouse Road on the outskirts of Derry on Friday and Saturday.

‘Fully primed’

It was described by police as a “fully primed command wire device” which contained a “considerable amount of explosives” contained in a lunchbox, which they believe was intended to be used to attack police.

“We believe there was the potential for an imminent attack and there was a clear plan to murder police officers,” she said. Police believe it may have been intended to be moved and used elsewhere.

A “strong line of inquiry”, she said, was that the munitions found belonged to dissident republican organisation the New IRA.

Chief Supt Bond said the weapons had been discovered near a children’s den and in an area used by the local people for exercise. The searches began after suspicious activity was reported to the police.

“The fact that these items were left close to a built-up, populated area, and particularly on land where children are known to play, yet again underlines the total lack of regard these violent terrorist criminals have for their own communities,” she said.

McKee, a 29-year-old writer and journalist, was shot while observing a riot in Derry’s Creggan estate in April 2019, and died shortly afterwards. Police believe dissident republican organisation the New IRA was responsible.

A 52-year-old man, Paul McIntyre, of Kinnego Park in Derry, was charged with her murder earlier this year. He denies the charge.

‘Reckless’

Chief Supt Bond said the discovery demonstrated “just how reckless these individuals are, the fact that they are content to put not only police officers but also put their own communities at risk [in] places where young people play and people use the fields to visit”.

The North’s Minister of Justice, Naomi Long, said the police had “undoubtedly saved lives today and their actions keep people safe. They do this without fear or favour, despite being under threat themselves.

“Their actions are in stark contrast to the callous and malicious behaviour of those who would seek to use potentially lethal weapons to control their own communities through fear and violence.”