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Lyra McKee's family in complaint over police operation on night of Derry murder

Police aware of killer's identity

Lyra McKee

The Police Ombudsman is investigating a complaint from the family of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

It comes as police admitted they know the identity of her killer, but don't have the evidence to put the matter before the courts.

The 29-year-old was shot dead in April 2019 while observing a riot in the Creggan estate in Londonderry.

The complaint from her family relates to aspects of the policing operation in the city on the night of her death, the BBC has reported.

It relates to the decision of the PSNI to search a house in Creggan on April 18.

Nothing was found during the search and while it was ongoing, rioting broke out during which Ms McKee was shot.

The New IRA admitted responsibility.

The DUP's Mervyn Storey said the the Ombudsman review should not detract from the actions of terrorists on the night of the murder.

"The office of the Police Ombudsman should be afforded space to come to its own conclusion," he said.

In a statement, the McKee family said: "Whilst we hold Lyra's killer and their associates completely responsible for her murder, we have asked the Police Ombudsman to investigate the aspects of the policing operation on April 18 2019.

"The Police Ombudsman investigation is completely separate to the ongoing murder investigation. We consider this a very personal family matter and have no further comment."

PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray acknowledged the complaint but defended police actions.

Lyra McKee

"The ombudsman will conduct their investigation and it will come to its own conclusion," he said.

"What I will say is that the officers acted in good faith with the information at the time. That is all we can do."

Separately, SDLP MLA and Policing Board member Dolores Kelly accused the PSNI of failing the people of Northern Ireland.

She criticised the PSNI for not catching dissident republican killers involved in the high profile murders of Lyra McKee and 43-year-old Jim Donegan, who was shot outside a school in west Belfast in December 2018 as he waited to pick up his son.

"I think the biggest test in terms of adequacy of the police response lies in the conviction of the people responsible and to date, unfortunately, in both cases, no one has yet been brought before the courts, either directly charged with the murder or assisting those responsible.

"I think not only will people be disappointed but they will be angry that that no one has been charged."

Detective Chief Superintendent Murray defended the police response to the murders.

"Those investigations are very far from over and so I do feel in all honesty that these remarks potentially are premature," he said.

"These investigations still have quite a considerable way to travel. Dissident republican murders are extremely difficult. I will go so far as to say we operate in one of the most challenging investigative environments in Europe."

He said police knew the identity of Lyra McKee's killer but given the difficulties in gathering evidence they were not in a position to put it before the courts.

"We certainly believe that we do know who pulled the trigger and who murdered Lyra McKee on that horrendous night in Creggan.

"I think it would be a failure of policing if we did not do everything in our power to bring people before the courts. We have to find the evidence. We have to try to get the evidence. It is incredibly difficult."

When asked if he was convinced that someone will be brought before the courts and charged with the murder, he said: "Those are not undertakings I give families. I don't think it is fair.

"I think it raises expectations unnecessarily. What I will say is I am convinced my officers will do everything we reasonably can to bring people to the courts. "

In a statement, Mr Storey said the police need more powers to disrupt those who intend to kill and destruct.

"Above all, we must continue to give primary and unconditional support, as well as all necessary resources to the investigating officers of the PSNI tasked with bringing those responsible for this abhorrent crime to justice," he said.

The Police Ombudsman has been approached for comment.

Belfast Telegraph