The policing of sectarian violence in Coleraine was already under investigation by the Ombudsman at the time of the murder of Kevin McDaid, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
A neighbour of Mr McDaid lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman after he was seriously injured by a loyalist mob nine months before the Catholic father-of-four was killed during a vicious sectarian attack in the same area.
Daniel Kennedy, who was hospitalised for five weeks after the attack in August, told the Belfast Telegraph he believes that if police had “properly conducted their duties” after he was assaulted, Mr McDaid might still be alive today.
He has accused police of allowing a loyalist mob into the area, failing to intervene when he was attacked and not properly investigating the assault.
The PSNI today said it could not comment on the specifics of the case as it was being investigated by the Police Ombudsman but insisted that officers in Coleraine carry out their duties “professionally and impartially” and they work “with all members of the public to provide a service to all communities”.
A PSNI spokesman added: “Where there is evidence of criminality or wrongdoing the police take robust action to ensure that those responsible are brought before the courts.
“If anyone has any concerns about police actions the appropriate means of dealing with those concerns is through the office of the Ombudsman and we look forward to their report,” the spokesman added.
Mr Kennedy was knocked unconscious, his leg shattered and his face and body were battered following an outbreak of sectarian violence during a republican bonfire on the anniversary of internment in a mainly Catholic area of the Heights estate last summer.
It is understood loyalists invaded the area after a shaky agreement with members of the nationalist community not to hold the bonfire broke down.
Mr Kennedy alleged to the Police Ombudsman that police were in the area at the time and had allowed known loyalists in and that they witnessed the assault without taking steps to intervene.
The Police Ombudsman’s office said it could not discuss individual cases but confirmed that a complaint was received in August 2008 from the Coleraine area.
A spokesman for the Ombudsman added: “The complainant alleged that police had allowed known loyalists into a particular part of the town, that police watched but did not intervene and did not properly investigate.”
The complaint is still under |investigation.
Last month the family of cross-community worker Mr McDaid made a complaint to the Police Ombudsman alleging that police had prior knowledge of a loyalist threat and claimed that “neither we nor our neighbours were |properly protected by police”. Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde also referred the matter to the Police Ombudsman.
Mr Kennedy, who still struggles to walk following the attack, said he believes that if the violence last August had been properly addressed at the time Mr McDaid could possibly still be alive today.
He said: “I got off much more lightly than Kevin. I am lucky to be alive. About 100 of them came into the area that night. There was a crowd of us at the bonfire, many of them just children, and they started beating me over the head with something. They also fired two gun shots in the air.
“I was knocked unconscious and woke up in hospital where my sister told me I was lucky to be alive. I was in hospital for five weeks. I still can’t walk properly.
“I don’t understand how the police, who were sitting in their Land Rovers, didn’t see 100 or so loyalists walking into the area. They didn’t do anything to help me when I was being attacked. I believe that if this had been dealt with and policed properly at the time Kevin might very well still be alive.”