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Tributes to journalist Lyra McKee shot dead as police hunt 'multiple suspects' over Londonderry murder

"Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act."

They are the words of Sara Canning, Lyra McKee’s partner, at a Londonderry vigil less than 24 hours after the journalist was shot dead during violent unrest.

Ms McKee, who was set to become a published author later this year, was hit when a gunman opened fire on police in the Creggan area of the city on Thursday night.

Police have blamed the dissident republican group the New IRA for the killing of the 29-year-old reporter and confirmed they are hunting "multiple suspects" as the prime minister led tributes.

Ms McKee had tweeted "absolute madness" with an image from the scene showing emergency vehicles attending the disturbances as smoke plumes rose into the Londonderry sky from the vehicle fires below.

A screengrab taken of the final tweet posted by 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee before she was shot Credit: PA

It came amid a night of unrest in which more than 50 petrol bombs were thrown at officers and two cars were hijacked and set on fire.

Who was Lyra McKee?

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner

The National Union of Journalists said McKee gained prominence with an online piece about growing up gay in Belfast – Letter To My 14 Year-Old Self – which was subsequently turned into a powerful short film.

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.

She worked as an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry.

Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, said Ms McKee was one of the most promising journalists in Northern Ireland.

She said: "A young, vibrant life has been destroyed in a senseless act of violence."

She added: "A bright light has been quenched and that plunges all of us in to darkness."

What have the police said about the murder investigation?

Lyra McKee, 29, was shot during a “terrorist incident” amid disturbances in Londonderry on Thursday evening. Credit: Facebook

Addressing Ms McKee's suspected killers, Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin told a press conference in Londonderry on Friday afternoon: "This was not done to further any cause – this will have achieved nothing other than to plunge a family into grief."

Mr Martin said police are looking for multiple suspects, adding: "There was certainly more than one person involved in the murder."

Who else has paid tribute?

Fellow journalist Matthew Hughes said he had been left “devastated” by the death of one of his closest friends. ‏ “I just received the heartbreaking news that my friend @LyraMcKee was murdered tonight in a terrorist incident in Derry,” he tweeted.

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“She was one of my closest friends. She was my mentor. She was a groomswoman at my wedding. I can’t imagine life without her, and yet now I must.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster made a clear statement as the unionist ventured into the heart of the nationalist and Catholic estate on Friday where Ms McKee lost her life.

ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith noted the "significant moment".

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Earlier Ms 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.

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

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past."

Prime Minister Theresa May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley added tributes on Friday and condemned the killing in the strongest terms.

"The death of Lyra McKee in last night’s suspected terrorist incident in Londonderry is shocking and truly senseless," Mrs May said.

"My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues. She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage."

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn echoed the sentiments and added: "This shocking attack is a reminder of the vital importance of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland peace process."

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Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she was “deeply shocked and saddened” to hear of the death.

“My thoughts and condolences are with her family at this time. Those responsible for last night’s violence have nothing to offer anyone in Northern Ireland.

“Their intolerable actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people who want to build a peaceful and more prosperous future for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

What happened before and after the shooting?

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers were carrying out a search operation in the Creggan area of Derry on Thursday night when the incident happened.

The police activity was aimed at disrupting dissident republicans ahead of this weekend’s commemoration of the 1916 Dublin uprising that led to Irish independence.

Ms McKee's death came amid a night of unrest in Londonderry. Credit: PA

During the unrest a gunman fired a number of shots at police, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said.

He added: “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 and can only be designed to hurt and kill people.

“Bullets stop somewhere, and on this occasion they stopped fatally.”

Mr Hamilton confirmed she was wounded and taken away in a police Land Rover to Altnagelvin Hospital but died there.

He said she was a “perfectly innocent” bystander with legitimate reason for being there but had not been “actively working” as a journalist on Thursday evening.

Who are the New IRA?

The New IRA is an amalgam of a series of armed groups opposed to the peace process.

It claimed responsibility for a number of parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow recently.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the group were the "most likely" culprits for Ms McKee's death when he first confirmed the launch of the murder inquiry.

“We believe this to be a terrorist act, we believe it has been carried out by violent dissident republicans, our assessment at this time is that the New IRA are most likely to be the ones behind this and that forms our primary line of inquiry," he said.

“This is a horrendous act, it is unnecessary, it is uncalled for, it is totally unjustified.”

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Mr Hamilton offered his “deepest sympathies” to Ms McKee’s family.

He added: “But not only is it a murder of a young woman, it is an attack again on the people of this city.”

A car bomb left outside a courthouse in the city exploded in January - the New IRA were blamed.

Mr Hamilton said: “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.”

Petrol bombs were thrown at police in Creggan, Londonderry Credit: Niall Carson/PA

He appealed to people with influence to use it to ensure a quiet weekend and future in the 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.”