Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Coleraine gravedigger 'uncovers guns' while preparing ground for a funeral

Police cordon off the entrance to St John’s Church graveyard in Coleraine after two handguns were reportedly found
Police cordon off the entrance to St John’s Church graveyard in Coleraine after two handguns were reportedly found

A gravedigger has uncovered what is reported to be two handguns in a Co Londonderry cemetery.

Reports suggested a device similar to a grenade was also discovered in the Killowen area of Coleraine last night in close proximity to the Heights area.

A security alert was sparked after a suspect object was found in the graveyard of St John's Catholic Church on the Laurel Hill Road. It is understood the man was working on his own.

Police and Army bomb squad officers were sent to the scene.

A cordon was placed around the area and the church was sealed off during the night.

The discovery was made after 5.30pm as the gravedigger prepared the ground for a funeral due to take place today.

The Mayor of Coleraine, DUP councillor George Duddy, said the situation was “concerning”.

He said: “I was alerted that a gravedigger had recovered a suspect object in the area while he was digging a grave using machinery.

“He hadn’t got far in to it when the item was discovered.

“It’s concerning to think that people were using the cemetery to conceal an object, whatever it was.

“The police were on the scene very quickly but it will be distressing for the gravedigger going about his day-to-day work. And there is also the distress this is causing to the family of the deceased.

“My thoughts are with both the gravedigger and the family at this moment in time.”

Last night police confirmed that no residents were asked to evacuate their homes, but some reported they were asked to move to the front of their property. There were also reports of a loud bang during the alert.

SDLP councillor Stephanie Quigley said that the community was in a state of disbelief.

She said: “Local residents were left distraught, shocked and in total disbelief at what was going on.

“They were very upset at what was happening. It’s a very quiet close-knit parish.

“The graveyard is also regarded as holy ground. It’s a public space, but it’s where people lay their loved ones to rest.”

Father Charles Keaney of St John’s said he was not aware of the nature of the object but said that the police were doing a good job. He said: “If something is discovered and they know what it is they have to do investigations, but hopefully everything will be well.

“The police are doing their job very well.”

UUP councillor David Barbour said: “It is really sad that anyone would use those premises for that purpose.

“And anyone doing that, surely they would think, that sooner or later someone is going to open a grave — were they hoping to go back again to get it again?

“It’s truly a very unfortunate event. This area has had a lot of very bad publicity over the years, particularly the McDaid death. It’s just very sad that somebody else now has decided once again that they will be highlighted in a way they don’t deserve.”

Community worker Kevin McDaid was beaten to death by loyalists in the area in 2009.

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