Belfast Telegraph

Only yards from the scene, kids play innocently, unaware of the tragedy

By Victoria Leonard

The Drumtara estate was a hive of police activity yesterday as news of the shocking double death shattered the Sunday peace in the neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ballymena.

As the Belfast Telegraph watched, four police cars packed with officers descended on the nondescript flats where two men had been found lying dead just hours earlier.

Neighbours watched from nearby windows as police spent over an hour inside the property, emerging laden down with evidence boxes. One officer carrying a small cardboard box paused to check the contents of a bin outside the building.

Police tape cordoned off the main entrance to the flats outside which the tragedy unfolded, and where one of the deceased, Rodney McDowell, lived.

In the front garden, just yards away from where the men were found unconscious, poppies grew and a Union flag fluttered in the breeze. It is a typical sight in the loyalist area, where the streets are festooned with UVF and Union flags.

The tightly-packed estate is home to hundreds of families, and, despite the horror which had unfolded in the early hours, groups of young children played innocently nearby. Neighbours left their doors open as kids ran in and out, enjoying lollies and ice cream on a warm summer's day.

They seemed to view the visiting PSNI as a novelty.

Some, unable to comprehend the gravity of what had happened so close to their homes, rode their bikes up to the police car to greet to the officers keeping watch outside the property.

One woman, who was visiting the estate, said that it was "unreal" to see the kids playing happily just feet from where the tragedy had occurred.

"My daughter would stay here with her dad sometimes, but something like this would make me worried," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "As a mum, it does make you think - especially seeing the wee ones out playing at the minute.

"You can see them walking right up to the cordon, and they don't have a clue what's going on.

"On the one hand someone has died, on the other hand life is going on as normal.

"You feel so sorry for the families involved; these are someone's sons, someone's brothers."

Another man added: "I didn't see them lying there but I heard about it as soon as I got up.

"For something like this to happen on your doorstep is beyond belief.

"My thoughts are with the families. It must be horrible to lose loved ones like that."

Belfast Telegraph

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