Male murder suspect (59) under PSNI guard in hospital as close-knit village tries to come to terms with fresh tragedy
A mother who died after she was trapped in a burning car had previously witnessed a tragic accident two decades ago that claimed the life of her six-year-old daughter on the same farm.
Katrina Rainey, aged in her 50s, died from horrific burns outside the farmhouse where she lived with her family.
A 59-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder.
The incident happened at around 5.40am on Tuesday in the Quarry Road area of Knockloughrim, a village just outside of Maghera.
Police said a car was set alight outside the home before emergency services attended the scene after receiving a frantic 999 call.
Mrs Rainey, who had been trapped in the Peugeot car, was rushed to hospital.
Police later confirmed she died as a result of her injuries.
A murder investigation is under way and the house was closed off as forensic officers examined the scene.
The arrested man was taken to the burns unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast for treatment to injuries to his head and hands. He remains under police guard. His injuries are not thought to be serious.
Emergency services who attended the scene were said to have been distressed at the injuries sustained by Mrs Rainey.
She had suffered 95% burns to her body.
Medics tried desperately to save her, but her injuries were too extensive and she succumbed to them a short time after she was admitted to hospital.
Mrs Rainey was a mother of six children.
In July 2002 her then eldest child, six-year-old daughter Heather, died in a tragic accident when a wall collapsed at the family farm.
Heather Rainey’s body was found shielding her four-year-old brother and sister when rescuers dug them from the rubble at their farm.
The schoolgirl had been watching workmen deliver silage along with her siblings.
A third child was asleep in the farmhouse.
Mrs Rainey, who was seven months’ pregnant at the time, desperately tried to revive Heather, but the little girl died from her injuries.
The two younger children suffered cuts and bruises but were not seriously hurt.
The village, where the family is well-known, is said to be in shock at the death of the popular mother.
Mrs Rainey was a trained midwife but was no longer registered as practising with the Nursing and Midwifery Council at the time of her death.
She had been working part-time in a local retail outlet.
Her colleagues were shocked by the death and said she was known to all as a helpful and much-loved member of staff.
She was also said to be fiercely proud of her children, who are known to be active in the local community.
In a statement, the PSNI asked that the Raineys be given privacy “as they try to come to terms with such a great loss to their family that will affect every part of their lives”.
SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said the death of Mrs Rainey, the 11th woman to die in a violent incident here since the start of lockdown last March, showed the need for more action directed towards tackling aggression against women.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in both domestic violence and violence against women generally, with the number of women killed in the North during that period now in double figures,” the Upper Bann MLA added.
“I welcome the PSNI’s vow to produce a strategy on violence against women, and as part of the Policing Board I will work to ensure that it does more than pay lip service to the issue.
“It needs to be robust and tackle the problems that permeate our society while protecting victims and punishing perpetrators.”
DUP councillor Anne Ford, who knows the Rainey family well, said the close-knit rural community of Knockloughrim was in “deep shock” over what had happened.
“We have to let the police investigation take its course,” she said.
“But I know that the community will rally around the family and try and help them through this horrendous ordeal.”
Her DUP colleague, Mid Ulster MLA Keith Buchanan, urged anyone with information to speak to the police.
“This is a tragic incident which is being treated as a crime scene,” he said.
“Anyone who can help the police with their enquiries should get in touch. People in the area are shocked as more details emerge.
“This is a quiet rural area with a strong community network where neighbour helps neighbour.
“To have a murder investigation in this area has left people speechless.”
He added: “To those who mourn the loss of a loved one and neighbour, I offer my sincere condolences and assure them of my prayers.”