Belfast school shooting pupils could be needed as witnesses, says principal after Jim Donegan murder
Pupils who witnessed a brutal murder outside a Belfast secondary school on Tuesday could be needed as witness as part of the criminal investigation into the shooting.
Jim Donegan had been waiting in his red sports car outside the gates of St Mary's Grammar School on the Glen Road when a lone gunman approached his vehicle and opened fire shortly after 3pm.
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The victim, known as JD and aged in his 40s, was killed instantly after being shot multiple times.
Fiona Crookes, interim Principal at St Mary's Grammar School, said that it was possible a number of pupils who witnessed the incident could be needed as part of the investigation into the murder.
She was speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday morning.
"That could be the case, we have the names of some of the boys who we know were there at that particular time, they had been released a little bit early because their teacher has to be in their station so they are allowed to go a few minutes early. There were a few boys who were there at the time," Mrs Crookes said.
Counselling services will be in place from Wednesday with a more intensive support network in place on Thursday when pupils return to school. The school will be open on Wednesday for any parents and pupils who wish to call in or avail of councilling.
Mrs Crookes said the family of the Mr Donegan were in the school following the shooting. She confirmed that Mr Donegan's 13-year-old son attended the school.
"He was our main priority because he was coming down the lane to meet with his father who was there to collect him, we brought him back to school and we had his mum (Laura Donegan) through the cordon and had her here in a classroom until the police took her to another area to speak with her," she said.
"His poor wee face yesterday afternoon to be told that was shocking."
She said that the thoughts and prayers of the whole school community were with the pupil and his family
"We received a call to the school about two minutes after the incident to say there had been a shooting from a staff member who was down there on duty," Mrs Crookes said.
"Myself and members of our senior team were on site within a minute and our well rehearsed policy and procedures kicked in immediately to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our pupils.
"Our pastoral care was tested to the limit in this horrific incident. Our boys were coming down the lane at that time so our key focus was to ensure that no one else encountered the scene that we had to encounter when we arrived there.
"We wanted to unite pupils with their waiting parents and make sure they got home safely. Those on site tended to the needs of the pupils and parents who were there while trying to shepherd the rest of the boys away, because no police or paramedics had arrived on the scene at that time."
Mrs Crookes said that staff did their best to make sure pupils did not witness the aftermath of the shooting.
"Our bell rings at 3.15pm so we had 1164 pupils coming down that lane to exit onto Glen Road and that's the first thing they would have seen so it was horrific," she said.
"Because there was no cordon in place at that time some of our boys had to walk past the scene so our primary concern was they wouldn't see what we had to see. We took off coats, cardigans, things like that and put them around windows.
"We were very much in control of the situation, it's not something you have to do every day, but you go into a mode where you realise that the safety of the pupils is paramount. We tried to be as calm as we possibly could."
Police have appealed for a man in his 40s wearing a high-visibility vest with the word 'Security' written on the back, or anyone who saw him, to contact them.
Belfast Telegraph Digital