Belfast Telegraph

Officer tells of shock at 'jeering' kids after Derry dissident bomb attack

'Speaking about the incident for the first time to BBC Radio Foyle, the officer said he still gets flashbacks six years after it happened' (stock photo)
'Speaking about the incident for the first time to BBC Radio Foyle, the officer said he still gets flashbacks six years after it happened' (stock photo)
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A PSNI officer who escaped an attack by dissident republicans has described how he was jeered by a group of children as young as 10 in the aftermath.

The man said he was more shocked by their reaction than the incident itself.

The officer was on patrol in the Creggan area of Londonderry in 2012 when the device thrown from the crowd hit the front of the Land Rover that he and a colleague were travelling in.

Despite the damage caused to the vehicle, the officers, who were not physically injured, managed to alert their colleagues and drive to safety.

Speaking about the incident for the first time to BBC Radio Foyle, the officer said he still gets flashbacks six years after it happened.

He said: "We were in the Creggan area supporting other police officers who were carrying out a search. All we heard was the bang on the roof of the vehicle and then something dark disappearing over the bonnet.

"We were just questioning what was it, then there was the realisation it wasn't fireworks, it was an explosive device.

"For me, I went into an automatic mode and made a radio transmission to our colleagues to make sure they knew what happened and that there was nobody injured or killed, so it is recorded."

The vehicle was still running, so the officers managed to move themselves and the vehicle clear.

The officer added: "As we were driving out, a thing that was quite shocking was the young ones were running towards us in a joyous way.

"I think that probably shocked me more, the fact that young ones were hoping to see somebody either seriously injured or worse.

"That caused a lot of concern because it's not nature that brings that out in people, it is more down to the influence that dissident elements within the community are trying to have on young ones.

"If they are like that when they are 10, 11, 12 - because that is the age they were - what are they going to be when they are 16, 18, 20? Are they going to try and drag the city back?"

The officer told of the flashbacks.

He explained: "From time to time I still think about it.

"It may be a location that triggers a thought, it may be a smell like something burnt or a loud bang.

"Your brain processes things in different ways, but you just move on and deal with everything that comes.

"For anybody to make an explosive device, there is only one aim and that is to cause tragedy, should that have been a police officer, a member of the public, there was absolutely no thought process in their minds."

The officer returned to his job in his home city of Derry with the blessing of his family.

He added: "I think anyone who has been involved in an incident with an explosive device being thrown at them or an incident where their life has been put in danger, you assess yourself, your commitment to your job and your family and to the community.

"My job at the time was a neighbourhood officer. To not go back would be a disappointment in myself.

"You have to assess every single incident and see are you willing to make that commitment to the community, and my answer was yes.

"Obviously you have to take your family into consideration because not to would be an injustice.

"After speaking to my family they were supportive. If something was to happen to you where you were fatally injured, where would they be? Kids without a father, a wife without a husband.

"You have to take your own security into consideration in what you do and where you go.

"It is part and parcel of your daily routine. You check your car and around your own property.

"You build it into your routine and try and make it as natural as possible, but everything in relation to your own security is unnatural.

"You shouldn't have to do it, you should be able to go out and do a day's work and come back to your family without thinking a tragedy could have happened."

A senior police officer has insisted controversial stop and search powers are an effective tool in the fight against terror.

Last month Lord Justice Treacy criticised police in Derry during a legal challenge taken by a former member of the dissident republican organisation the 32 County Sovereignty Movement.

Steven Ramsey claimed he was stopped and searched 156 times in five years despite, he insisted, not being a member of any illegal organisation or political party, or being convicted of paramilitary activity.

While Mr Treacy dismissed Mr Ramsey's challenge, he did say the PSNI had breached its own code of practice by not recording the reason for each of the searches on Mr Ramsey.

Detective Chief Inspector Alan Hutton said he accepted Mr Treacy's criticism, but he defended the use of the action, saying: "Stop and search can be a massively effective tool in preventing crime".

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