Belfast Telegraph

Dissident bomb attack on Derry police officer leaves family traumatised

'Violent dissidents' blamed after device goes off at policeman's home in Derry

By Donna Deeney

The family of the police officer targeted in a bomb attack in Londonderry suffered "mammoth trauma" after discovering the device outside their home, it has emerged.

The device, described as "more intricate" than a pipe bomb, went off as soon as an Army robot touched it.

According to the PSNI District Commander, Superintendent Gordon McCalmont, "violent dissident republicans" were to blame for the device in the Culmore area of the city which was designed to kill or cause serious injury to the officer.

He said: "We should be thankful that we are not talking about the death or serious injury of someone. Shortly after 9.30am we were made aware of a suspect device at the home of one of my colleagues.

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"We immediately took steps to ensure the safety of the community which resulted in 12 families being evacuated from their homes.

"As my colleagues were working on the device, it exploded.

"My colleague is someone who goes to work with the sole aim of ensuring the safety of the community. This is in sharp contrast to individuals who left a viable explosive device in a residential area with kids and families. It is our firm belief that violent dissident republicans are responsible for this attack," he added.

It is understood the device was spotted under the car of the officer, believed to be a Catholic, by a member of his family who raised the alarm.

Superintendent McCalmont continued: "Colleagues are supporting my colleague right now but you can imagine the impact on someone who lives and works at the heart of our community. The trauma for him and his family is quite mammoth.

"This was not a basic pipe bomb but something more intricate and it was planted there to kill and cause harm."

Local couple Brian and Fidelis McLaughlin expressed their anger at the attack.

Mr McLaughlin said: "Everyone has the right to live wherever they like no matter who they are or what they do for a living.

"These Troubles are finished, they are done, we have moved on. These people need to move on because the people living around here don't want them."

Kate Carroll, whose husband Stephen was the first PSNI officer murdered, said those behind the bomb attack in Derry were "cowards" who cannot be allowed to win.

She said: "I understand completely the trauma this officer and his family will feel now because I thought my life was over when I opened the door to a policeman who told me Stephen had been killed.

"The people who did this are cowards. Why don't they crawl out and show their faces but instead they sneak about.

"I am a great believer in karma and the people who did this will get what they deserve.

"I hope this won't deter anyone from joining the police. The bombers can't be allowed to win."

Condemnation of the attack was widespread. Secretary of State James Brokenshire described it as "a despicable attack".

"The people who planted this device intended to kill or cause really serious injury," he said.

"Their murderous intent is in stark contrast to the focus of this police officer who went out this morning to serve the community."

Policing Board vice chairwoman Debbie Watters said: "I am grateful that the evil intent of those responsible for leaving this device did not succeed.

"This officer has had a very lucky escape but such activity reinforces the continuing threat that exists for our police officers both on and off duty."

Justice Minister Claire Sugden said: "Attacks on police officers are attacks on our whole community; they generate nothing but fear and intimidation.

"Their malicious and murderous attempt to bring violence back to our streets has failed before and it will fail again."

The DUP's Gary Middleton said the bombers intend "to drag Northern Ireland back into the past by instilling fear and intimidation".

"Our community do not want to see this type of evil activity and this deeply disturbing incident should be unequivocally condemned," he added.

Ulster Unionist election candidate Julie McKee said: "The people of Londonderry want to be policed by the PSNI and not be intimidated or threatened by self-appointed gangs of armed thugs. Northern Ireland has moved on and the days of physical force republicanism must also be consigned to the past."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the bombers as the "enemies of the Irish people".

He said: "The cowards who targeted a police officer this morning have set themselves against the people of Derry and the people of Ireland."

Sinn Fein Assembly candidate for Foyle, Elisha McCallion, added: "Those responsible for this attack have nothing to offer the people of Derry or the north."

Terror gang is ramping up its campaign of violence

Thursday, January 5: Dissident republicans were blamed for a gun attack at a house in the Creggan area of Londonderry. A man and woman were inside the house in Ballymagowan Avenue when the volley of shots was fired. Neither were injured in the attack but they were left in a state of shock.

Friday, January 6: A 21-year-old man was shot in both legs in the Turf Lodge area of west Belfast. The shooting happened at about 10pm in Ardmonagh Parade. The victim was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries which were not life-threatening.

Friday, January 13: A husband and wife, both aged in their 50s, were shot in the legs after an armed gang stormed their home in Turf Lodge. It's understood the couple were protecting their 19-year-old son after they refused to hand him over to paramilitaries. They were both treated in hospital for their injuries.

Tuesday, January 17: A 26-year-old man was shot in both legs in an alleyway in the Turf Lodge area of Belfast. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment to his injuries. The attack took place just a few streets from where the husband and wife were shot a few days previously.

Sunday, January 22: A police officer was shot twice in the arm as he left a busy petrol station (below) in north Belfast. He was rushed to Royal Victoria Hospital where he underwent surgery. Speaking hours after the shooting, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said the main line of enquiry was violent dissident republicans.

Thursday, February 9: A man in his 60s was rushed to hospital after a number of shots were fired through a window near Banbridge. The victim was injured in the attack at Tullymore Road, Poyntzpass.

Wednesday, February 15: A young man, understood to be a teenager, was shot in both legs in the Falls Road area of west Belfast. It happened close to a jobs and benefits office. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital for treatment.

Thursday, February 16: A 16-year-old was shot in the leg on Forest Street near the Springfield Road area of west Belfast. He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital. Chief Superintendent Chris Noble described the brutal attack as child abuse.

Tuesday, February 21: Police uncover five pipe bombs and ammunition in Conway Street, west Belfast. The PSNI links the arms cache to the INLA.

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