Casualty of sectarian attack remains on life support
This is the picture that brings home the full horror of sectarian violence — Damien Fleming clinging to life in a hospital bed.
Mr Fleming was the victim of a loyalist sectarian attack near to the spot in Coleraine where another Catholic, Kevin McDaid, was murdered at the weekend.
His family agreed to the picture being made public as their loved one remained critically ill on a life support machine.
Yesterday nine men appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court to face charges linked to the death of Mr McDaid.
Two more men were arrested yesterday in connection with the murder. One was later released on bail pending further inquiries.
It is understood that some of the men who appeared in court yesterday are members of the Pride of the Bann loyalist flute band, which is holding a controversial parade in Coleraine this evening.
Last night the band stated that it will not be taking any disciplinary action at this stage against members accused of crimes connected to the murder of Kevin McDaid.
Tension as suspects are remanded
A former member of the Ulster Democratic Party was among eight men who appeared in court in connection with the murder of Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid and the attempted murder of his friend Damien Fleming.
Frank Simpson Daly, who was once a member of the UDA-linked party, appeared in Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday charged with murder, attempted murder and assaulting a female.
Daly (48) of Rosemary Parade in Coleraine — whose 11-year-old daughter was seriously injured when the family home was shot at during a loyalist feud nine years ago — and the seven other defendants came face to face with Mr McDaid’s family who attended the court hearing under tight security.
A crowd of over 70 friends and relatives of the accused men were also in court.
An investigating officer revealed that a preliminary report showed Mr McDaid, who was attacked on his doorstep during serious sectarian disturbances on Sunday night in Coleraine, died as the result of a heart attack.
Over 30 armed police officers lined the courtroom to keep the defendants’ supporters and Mr McDaid’s relatives apart amid fears that trouble may erupt.
The PSNI was forced to close off the road in front of the courthouse and 10 police Land Rovers lined the street after the men were remanded in custody as a large crowd gathered outside.
Six of the accused including Daly were charged with the murder of Mr McDaid and the attempted murder of Mr Fleming, who is still fighting for his life in hospital.
They were David Craig Cochrane (18) of Windy Hall Park, John Thompson (29) of Danes Hill Road, Christopher McDowell (33) of Glebe Avenue, Paul Andrew Newman (40) of Grassmere Close and John McGrath (50) of Hawthorne Place.
Two other men, Aaron Thomas Beech (23) of Windy Hall Park and Ivan Beattie McDowell (42) of Lisnablagh Road, were charged with attempted murder. Four of the men were also charged with assault, including McGrath, who was charged with assaulting Mr McDaid’s wife Evelyn.
David James John Cochrane (47) of Windy Hall Park — the father of murder accused teenager David Craig Cochrane — was charged with affray.
A detective told the court he believed he could connect all the men with the charges.
He also objected to any of the men being released on bail saying that with tensions heightened in the area he was fearful of attacks on anyone connected to Mr McDaid or the accused.
When questioned by a solicitor acting for Christopher McDowell, the detective said the evidence against him was the word of witnesses.
He agreed that the most damaging witness had a “very lengthy” criminal record and that credibility checks were ongoing.
The men were remanded in custody to appear before Coleraine Magistrates Court via video-link on June 8.
Police investigating the murder of Mr McDaid last night arrested another two men.
A 33-year-old man was arrested in Coleraine and a 53-year-old man was detained on suspicion of assisting offenders.
Meanwhile, tensions remain high in Coleraine ahead of tonight’s planned loyalist parade.
Earler this week the Pride of the Bann flute band indicated that it would re-route its parade so that it does not pass near the Heights area where Mr McDaid was killed.
SDLP MLA John Dallat said he had been assured that there would be a visible police presence for tonight’s parade.
He also called for the band parade to be cancelled.
He said: “I have assurances from the PSNI that a round-the-clock watch in the area will be clearly visible so that people know that they are not being left unprotected.
“Even at this stage I would again appeal to the organisers of the proposed parade to reflect on the seriousness of the situation and call it off.
“It is not possible to hold any kind of celebration while people are reeling from the horrors of the last week and the fact that Kevin McDaid has still to be taken to his last resting place.”