Belfast Telegraph

Bombed twice, but officer's parents won’t leave

Elderly couple preyed on by dissidents vow to stay in their home

By Donna Deeney

The family of a police officer targeted for a second time by bombers have vowed not to be forced from their home.

Dissident republicans are being blamed for the bomb attack at the home of the elderly parents of a serving police officer.

Another relative has also been singled out for attack, making a total of three attempts to kill or injure family members.

A fuse on a “sizeable” pipe-bomb was lit, but failed to explode on Sunday night outside the house on Drumleck Drive in the nationalist Shantallow area of Londonderry.

The policeman’s parents have lived in the area for some time and have defiantly refused to be intimidated.

The alarm was raised shortly before 11pm when the device was discovered on the ground underneath a car, and 50 homes were evacuated overnight.

The Army made the device safe at the scene and it was removed for forensic examination before the residents were given permission to return to their homes shortly before 9am on Monday.

In September 2009 a similar device exploded outside the house, although no-one was injured.

On the same day another viable pipe-bomb was made safe at the home of a sister of the officer.

While no organisation has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, the Real IRA said that it carried out both attacks in 2009.

Superintendent Chris Yates said the incident is being treated as attempted murder.

He added: “This act was reckless in the extreme and there is no doubt in my mind that this was meant to kill or injure the elderly parents of a serving police officer.

“It was absolute insanity. The fuse of this sizeable pipe-bomb was lit, but failed to explode.

“In a residential area with many children and elderly people, if it had exploded it would have caused serious injury.

“It has been described to me by ATO (Ammunition Technical Officers) as of a similar strength to a hand grenade — so basically they threw a hand grenade into a residential area.

“There was no magnetic strip on the device, so it wasn't attached to the vehicle, so either it was just placed there or it was thrown.”

Superintendent Yates said that he has no doubt that the bomb attack was the work of dissident republicans.

“No group has yet claimed responsibility, but it is quite clearly the work of dissident republicans and we are linking it to previous attacks.

“We are treating this as attempted murder and we will leave no stone unturned (in our investigation) to get those responsible.

“We know there were two males seen in the area at around 9pm acting suspiciously and we would like to speak to these two men or hear from anyone who saw them.

“No-one wants this and it will achieve nothing.

“I have spoken to the officer and he is determined to remain in the police, and the family is quite clear too that they will remain living at this address.”

Independent Policing Board member Gearóid Ó hEára said that the PSNI was well aware of the threat to Catholic officers and their families.

He said: “I am aware of what the PSNI is doing and... I am confident that everything that can be done is being done to protect officers, and especially Catholic officers living in nationalist areas, and that this will also be extended to their families.

“It is worrying that these people who are living in the past are often also working on out-of-date information.

“I condemn this attack as wrong and extend my sympathy to the family of this officer.”

Policing Board chair Brian Rea also condemned the attack, saying: “The sense of community outrage shows that those responsible for leaving this device are completely out of touch with the community majority.

“We are thankful that the device was found in time, but our thoughts are with the police officer’s family and the people living close by who have been subjected to a most terrifying incident.

“If anyone has even a shred of information on those behind this attack then it must be passed to the PSNI or to Crimestoppers.”

‘Any one of us could have been killed by this’

Families forced from their homes by the bomb in Londonderry have told of their terror as police arrived to tell them to flee in the night.

Many of the people who live in Drumleck Drive had to lift sleeping babies out of their cots and run to the homes of relatives while Army bomb experts worked through the night to make the device safe.

One resident, who did not want to be named out of fear that he too would become a target, described those responsible as “morons”.

He said: “The first we became aware that something was wrong was when the wee policewoman came banging on our front door.

“We left immediately through the front door, but then another officer told us not to walk any further that way, so we had to leave via the back of houses.

“I saw the device myself as we walked past — it looked like a pipe-bomb and it was just lying on the road.

“Some people were saying it had fallen off a car outside the house of the family that were targeted before.

“What is that going to achieve?

“They are the family of a policeman, but what is it to do with them? They are not responsible for anything.

“They were targeted before and then the bomb actually went off, but this time it didn't explode.

“But what if it had? Any one of us could have been killed.

“I don't see the point of these kind of actions at all; there is only a handful of these morons left but they are holding us to ransom.

“You are afraid to speak out against them in case you end up their target, but it is a disgrace that they can do this.”

Young mum Laura Deery and her six-month-old son Leo had to drop everything and flee their home at about midnight.

She said: “It was just terrifying. I had to lift the baby out of his bed, and our family had to walk up the street in our bare feet.

“We weren't allowed back for food or nappies.

“How would these people like it if members of their family were put to the street?”

Another resident, who also didn’t want to be named, added: “The ones who are doing this don't care about anyone in the community.

“What can the family of a policeman do about whether or not their son is in the police, so why are they being targeted?

“But what has it to do with the rest of the people living here?

“It is us who had to leave our houses and spend the night somewhere else, but the dissidents don't care about us, and yet they think they are representing us. They couldn't be more wrong.”

While the majority of residents did not want to speak, the elected representatives of the area had strong words of condemnation.

Foyle MP Mark Durkan said: “This attack was carried out with malice and all the worst possible fallout with calculation and forethought from those involved.

“Once again those behind this attack are just damaging the people of Derry — they are advancing no cause or argument by this and are just bringing distress and disruption to the people of this city.

Councillor Tony Hassan added: “Whoever is behind leaving this device needs to stop and take stock of their actions. They have endangered all those families who live in this street and put all those in the vicinity at serious risk.

“It is obvious that the people behind leaving such devices are out of touch with the will of the vast majority of the people of the area.”

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