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Sleepy village shocked that 'quiet wee girl' allied herself with violent jihadists

By Lesley Houston

Published 25/02/2016

The family home of Lorna Moore close to the village of Mountjoy in County Tyrone
The family home of Lorna Moore close to the village of Mountjoy in County Tyrone
The village of Mountjoy in County Tyrone

A village in Co Tyrone is reeling after a former resident, described as a "quiet, decent wee girl", was found guilty of a terrorist offence linked to Islamic State.

The quiet rural scene in Mountjoy - a few dozen houses and a handful of public buildings and businesses - was a world away from the media circus surrounding Lorna Moore's appearance in London's Old Bailey yesterday.

Neighbours described Moore's family as decent, and said her father could regularly be found in the fields, tending his sheep.

At the same time, his daughter would have been preparing to set off to a Middle East warzone to join a brutal terrorist army.

There are only a few residents in Mountjoy, which is just outside Omagh, but those who spoke last night admitted they were shocked and saddened that Lorna Moore had found herself in the company of jihadists.

Extremist terror group IS has destroyed or taken over large parts of Iraq and Syria, leaving a barren landscape and tens of thousands of bodies in its wake.

It has also committed heinous bombings and gun attacks across the world, and stunned the Western public with a series of horrific beheadings.

Lorna's mother, Katherine, was in London supporting her only child while the family's farmhouse on the Dunteige Road remained in total darkness.

Her father, Noel, was last night being supported by other family members at an unknown location.

The house lies a few hundred metres from the crossroads of Mountjoy, where the local Presbyterian Church, of which Muslim convert Lorna was once a member, stands on high ground.

Its minister, Rev Jonathan Cowan declined to comment, but pledged to provide the family any pastoral support they needed.

One parent taking children to the Girls' Brigade at the church hall said she remembered Lorna as a young girl.

"I remember seeing her and she was a very quiet, decent wee girl," she said.

"But since she went away to university, we have never seen her again.

"I feel very sorry for the family, though, and for the girl herself."

One close neighbour described the case as shocking in the extreme.

"You don't expect this type of thing in a wee place like this," he said.

"They are very quiet, decent and normal family, and I think when this all started they tried their best to get on with it.

"But when the verdict came in today they must have been absolutely devastated. Devastation, I'm sure, doesn't come close."

Ulster Unionist councillor for the area, Bert Wilson, said he thought it was likely the family did not know what Lorna had become mixed up in.

"In most cases, the people who go down that line are very secretive," he said. "Some of these guys are so persuasive. They can obviously turn their mind and point them in a very wrong direction that will definitely end up with a disaster for the family and the person themselves.

"These terror groups I'm sure can worm their way into decent families along the line."

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