PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell targeted by dissident republicans, police believe

The off-duty police officer shot by three masked men in Omagh on Wednesday evening was Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

The policeman was shot at a sports complex in his hometown in Omagh, County Tyrone. He was packing balls into the boot of his car when the gunmen approached. Mr Caldwell was with his son at the time of the attack.

He is believed to be in his late 40s. The senior officer has fronted several high profile murder investigations.

Most recently, he has led the investigation into the murder of Natalie McNally who was murdered in her home in Lurgan in December.

He is the lead detective on the Shane Whitla murder investigation. Mr Whitla, 39, was shot dead in an alleyway, also in Lurgan in January. It was not connected to the Natalie McNally killing.

And he was involved in the murder investigation into the killing of the journalist Lyra McKee. The journalist was killed when dissident republicans opened fire during rioting in Derry in April 2019.

DCI Caldwell also headed the murder of 25-year-old PSNI officer Ronan Kerr, who was also gunned down in the same town.

Constable Kerr, 25, was killed by a booby trap by dissident republicans Credit: Police Service Northern Ireland

The killing of Constable Kerr was blamed on dissident republicans styling themselves as the New IRA - the same renegade group police suspect of shooting Detective Chief Inspector Caldwell on Wednesday night.

Mr Kerr, a 25-year-old recently graduated police recruit, died when a booby trap bomb detonated under his car outside his home in Omagh in April 2011.

Making an appeal for information on the 10th anniversary of the murder in 2021, Mr Caldwell's words now assume a chilling poignancy given what happened to him in the same Co Tyrone town.

"His job was to protect the community," he said.

"Despicably, people living in his own community planned and plotted to kill him simply because he was a police officer bravely going out every day to protect people and make communities safer places to live and work."

Given the ever-present security risk, the PSNI strive to protect the identities of the majority of their officers in the public sphere.

A mural in Belfast of Lyra McKee, who was shot dead in April 2019 Credit: David Young/PA

However, high-ranking officers do have more of a public profile and they often front media appeals related to major investigations. Mr Caldwell is a familiar face on the TV news in Northern Ireland and is accustomed to giving press conferences and interviews.

A summary of cases worked on in recent years.


Mark Lovell

In early December he took on the Mark Lovell case who was shot outside his home in Newry. In October, he headed the probe into the murder of Ryan McNab who was killed in an attack in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey.

In October 2022, he headed the probe into the murder of Ryan McNab in Co Antrim.

Mr McNab, 31, from north Belfast, was killed in an attack in the Rathcoole area of Newtownabbey.

And in January Mr Caldwell fronted public appeals on the fatal stabbing of Martin Gavin, 47, in Belfast


DCI Caldwell led the probe into the murder of Katie Rankin, who was murdered whilst out glamping by her partner in Limavady.

Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital following the attack at a sports complex in Omagh, in Co Tyrone, on Wednesday evening.

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