The brother of UDR soldier murdered by the IRA has spoken of the distress his family is experiencing following the trashing of a memorial just hours after a prayer service was held to mark the 30th anniversary of her death.
Heather Kerrigan and her colleague Norman McKinley were killed in a landmine attack while on foot patrol on July 14, 1984.
It was reported to police that wreaths left at the memorial to the pair at Corgary Road outside Castlederg on Monday evening were damaged, remembrance crosses had disappeared and a sign saying 'IRA 2 UDR 0' was erected. It has since been removed.
Chief inspector Andy Lemon, the PSNI area commander, condemned the incident.
"We are investigating this as a hate incident and have seized the poster," he said.
"Incidents of this kind do nothing for community harmony in the area, indeed I believe the vast majority of people in and around Castlederg will be appalled by what has happened."
Heather Kerrigan's brother David told the Belfast Telegraph the vandalism had left his family distressed.
"We are very, very upset about this," he said.
"The whole community has been sickened by what's happened.
"These two people were very well-respected. It has brought everything back.
"I just don't understand the mentality of someone who would do something like this. My stomach is turning, I really thought we were moving away from all of this."
Mr Kerrigan said a similar incident occurred in 2009 when the 25th anniversary was marked.
"They never put a sign up that time," he added.
"This time they did – this wasn't a drunken mob going by, this was organised and planned because the sign was well-painted."
DUP MLA Thomas Buchanan accused Sinn Fein of provoking confrontation in Castlederg, claiming protest behaviour by the party "amounts to little short of undiluted fascism".
He added: "On three separate occasions Sinn Fein representatives and supporters have participated in illegal protests in Castlederg.
"The first protests were on the Eleventh night and then again on the Twelfth morning.
"They protested against a parade to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the brutal murder of two UDR soldiers: Norman McKinley and Heather Kerrigan.
"Now they won't even let us honour our brave soldiers without protests. The behaviour of Sinn Fein in Castlederg amounts to little short of undiluted fascism."
Sinn Fein MP Pat Doherty said that putting up the sign was "the height of insensitivity".
"Everyone should have the right to commemorate their dead with respect and dignity," he said.
"The erection of this distasteful sign at Corgary is the height of insensitivity.
"I can understand the anguish and distress this has caused to the immediate families and wider community. I totally condemn the actions of those who are responsible."
UDR members Pte Norman McKinley (31) and Cpl Heather Kerrigan (20) were killed in an IRA landmine attack while on foot patrol on July 14, 1984. On Monday the memorial site to the soldiers was desecrated just hours after a ceremony to mark the 30th anniversary of their deaths. A sign saying IRA 2 UDR 0 was erected on a lamppost. It has since been removed. A similar incident occurred in 2009 following an event to mark the 25th anniversary.