Belfast Telegraph

Police probe drug link to drowning of man in Bann

By Amanda Poole

Detectives investigating the death of Owen McKeown at the weekend are thought to be examining a possible drugs connection.

It’s understood the 21-year-old Ballymena man had been with friends at The Wild Duck in Portglenone prior to drowning in the River Bann on Saturday evening.

Two canoeists said they saw Mr McKeown struggling in the water close to the Bann Road bridge in Kilrea at around 6pm on Saturday.

Divers recovered his body on Sunday and a post-mortem examination is due to be carried out.

All lines of police inquiry remain open, including the possibility that Mr McKeown was trying to escape a number of pursuers.

On Saturday two men, aged 25 and 30, were released on police bail pending further inquiries, and on Sunday detectives were granted a 36-hour extension to continue questioning a 26-year-old man.

A PSNI spokesman said: “A 26-year-old man remains in custody and police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death at this stage.”

Father Paddy Delargy, parish priest of Kirkinriola, visited Mr McKeown’s grieving family on Sunday evening.

“They are devastated,” Fr Delargy said.

“I know them from being church-going people and we prayed together.”

Fr Delargy told the Belfast Telegraph that he is not in a position to comment on reports that Owen’s death was linked in some way to drugs and appealed for anyone with information to contact the police. “I know Owen from the past, when he came and spoke to me,” Fr Delargy said.

“I thought things were going fine. What has happened is way out of proportion.

“I am aware of a drug culture in Ballymena and I know it’s extremely difficult for people to come forward with the culture of threats and violence.

“Whatever people know should be spoken out to the proper authorities, not on Facebook.”

Fr Delargy said he believes Owen’s funeral is being planned for Thursday, but this will “depend on when the coroner’s report is completed”.

SDLP councillor for the Ballymena area, Declan O’Loan, offered his sympathies to Mr McKeown’s family.

“Whatever the exact circumstances, this was an unnecessary death and the family deserve our support at this sad time,” he added.

“I know that they were by the river bank for a long period during the search and we can imagine their distraught state as the events unfolded.”

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