Nine held after killing of Catholic in Northern Ireland
Nine men are being questioned by police in Co Londonderry over the murder of Catholic father-of-four Kevin McDaid.
Mr McDaid (49) was beaten to death by a loyalist mob just yards from his home in the Heights area of Coleraine on Sunday.
Detectives have confirmed they were treating his death as sectarian.
Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Frankie Taylor said tensions were running high in the area but urged the nationalist community not to retaliate.
“There has been a lot of speculation as to what had happened. I would appeal for people from this area not to retaliate over what has happened to Kevin. It is not what Kevin would have wanted, it is not what Kevin’s family want and on their behalf I would appeal for calm in the area. Let the police get on with the investigation.”
He added: “The principal motive at this stage is sectarian. This was an attack by Protestants on Catholics. Retaliation will not help the name of Kevin. We need anybody with information to come forward and help Kevin. Unfortunately Kevin can’t speak for himself, so we need those people to come forward and speak on his behalf.”
Mr McDaid, a plasterer by trade who volunteered as a community youth worker, was savagely beaten by a loyalist mob who descended on the estate hours after Rangers won the Scottish Premier League. Eyewitnesses said the thugs jumped on and kicked the victim’s head. The police have yet to determine which, if any, weapons were used although there are reports that the gang was armed with pickaxe handles and baseball bats.
It is understood there was a dispute about flags prior to the attack. A number of tricolours had been erected but were removed a short time before the killing. Mr Taylor said police had been in the area at the time and officers were last night being “debriefed”.
He said: “We believe a large group of men came into this area and Mr McDaid and a number of others were attacked. I would appeal to this community in the Heights area to come forward with any information they have in relation to what took place. It’s clear there was a sequence of events that took place before the assault on Mr McDaid and we need that information, we need those people to come forward.
“It is one line of inquiry that we are looking into that there were flags on the lampposts and that they were removed just prior to the attack on Mr McDaid. I should say Mr McDaid is an individual who worked very closely with the police and with other statutory and voluntary agencies to try and improve this area and to try and help individuals in this area.
“Clearly his intention was to make the Heights a better place for everyone to live in. He has been brutally beaten.
“This was an unfolding event and it was going on over a period of time so the police were here at different stages of the evening and those police officers that were present will be fully debriefed on the information they can provide.”
Mr Taylor played down reports that people in the Heights felt abandoned by local police, and he said patrols would be stepped up in the area in the wake of the attack.
“The district commander, who is in charge of the whole operation at this stage, will be looking very closely at events in this area over the coming days. People should be reassured that the police are here to provide a service to everybody.”
Mr Taylor said police had so far received a “great response” from locals but he urged anyone with information to come forward.
Throughout yesterday forensic teams combed the scene for clues. Among the items bagged and taken away for examination was a large plank of wood, beer cans which had been strewn across the murder scene and a cardboard box.
Meanwhile another man, 46-year-old Damien Fleming, was last night fighting for life. It is understood he was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital yesterday afternoon.
DI Taylor said detectives were treated his attack as attempted murder. “He remains critical in hospital and at the minute we are treating the assault on him as attempted murder. We may well be looking at a second murder here.”
Yesterday afternoon trouble flared in other parts of Coleraine.
At Market Street in the town centre police came under attack from stones and bottles and a number of loyalists held a tense stand outside the Scots Bar for much of the day.