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Larne tragedy: Our community is united in shock and disbelief over, says minister

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Police at the scene on the Bankhall Road in Magheramorne yesterday

Police at the scene on the Bankhall Road in Magheramorne yesterday

Police at the scene on the Bankhall Road in Magheramorne yesterday

A minister has spoken of the deep sorrow felt in a rural Co Antrim community after the fatal stabbing of a toddler.

Rev Dr Cecil Grant, of Magheramorne Presbyterian Church, said he had been offering comfort to those affected by the death of the youngster in a domestic incident that also left the child's mother and another baby fighting for their lives in hospital.

The mother, named locally as nurse Fiona McGowan, who is in her 30s, is being treated at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital for serious wounds.

Another child, a one-year- old baby, is also being treated in hospital.

It is understood both are being treated for critical injuries, although at the request of the family no condition updates are being made available by the hospital.

Police said they were not looking for anyone else in connection with the episode.

Officers are still waiting to question the mother about the incident.

There is a confusion as to the circumstances and the people here still don't really know or understand exactly what has happened. That probably adds to the shock, the shock of not knowing Rev Dr Cecil Grant

Though the Bankhall Road has been reopened, the family farmhouse, where Monday's tragic events unfolded, remained sealed off yesterday as police continued their investigation into the shocking incident, which has left locals stunned.

The wider community is slowly coming to terms with the shock.

"While we can't say exactly what and how this has happened, I have been in touch with the community this morning and everyone is united in their expression of shock and disbelief," said Rev Grant.

"This is a very small, rural and close-knit community and this is something no one ever imagined would happen in the neighbourhood.

"They only moved in to the area in the last year, but the community still feels this very deeply. People have been praying for the family.

"There is a confusion as to the circumstances and the people here still don't really know or understand exactly what has happened. That probably adds to the shock, the shock of not knowing.

"No one I have been in contact with since this happened really knew the family too well, but the sense of trying to come to terms with this is palpable.

"We are here for prayer. People will have things they need to talk about and we are here to support the community in whatever way we can. That's what the church is for. I want people to see this church as a shelter and as (being about) togetherness. It's what this community needs."

The mother-of-four is believed to be under police custody at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where she is being looked after by medical staff.

Her youngest child, who is just a year old and is also being treated at the hospital, was reported as being in a critical condition on Monday night.

No words can express the deep sense of loss and shock we all feel at this incident Mayor Maureen Morrow

The couple's two older children are thought to have been at school at the time of the incident and the children's father was at work.

It is also believed that police received a 999 call from the father after he rushed home to the scene.

On Monday afternoon forensics teams removed a number of items from the family home, including an iPhone 7.

Police said their investigation was at an early stage and they had not released any further information last night.

At the main monthly meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council in Ballymena on Monday night, Mayor Maureen Morrow, said: "I am totally shocked to have heard of the sad tragedy that was unfolding today in Larne.

"My prayers and heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family and the wider community.

"No words can express the deep sense of loss and shock we all feel at this incident."

Councillors stood for a minute's silence as a mark of respect.

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, who lives close to where events unfolded, said it was "an unspeakable tragedy" for the area.

"This has obviously been a horrific incident. We have one dead child and another critically injured with what I believe are terrible injuries," he added.

"It's an awful tragedy for the family and wider family circle.

"It's a very tight community here and there's shock all around.

"All our thoughts are with the wider family circle."

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