Belfast Telegraph

Police didn't fail to act during loyalist mob killing of Catholic man six years ago, says Ombudsman report

By Deborah McAleese

Serious allegations of police wrongdoing in relation to a sectarian murder in Coleraine six years ago have been dismissed by the Police Ombudsman.

The independent police watchdog found no evidence to support complaints that officers failed to intervene to stop a loyalist mob from killing Catholic community worker Kevin McDaid and injuring several others.

An allegation that police officers had earlier texted a number of loyalists in an attempt to inflame tensions in the town on the night of Mr McDaid's death was also rejected by the Ombudsman.

However, a man who was left critically injured after he was attacked as he attempted to save Mr McDaid said he disagrees with the Ombudsman's findings and that he intends to pursue civil action against the PSNI for alleged failure of duty.

Mr McDaid, a 49-year-old father-of-four, died after he was attacked by a loyalist mob outside his home in the predominantly nationalist Heights estate in the town.

There had been tension in the area over flags at the time.

Several people, including Mr McDaid's wife Evelyn and a pregnant neighbour, were also attacked as they tried to intervene.

Following Mr McDaid's death the Police Ombudsman, Michael Maguire, was asked to investigate a number of complaints about police in the area that day.

It had been alleged that policing that day had not been robust, that some police officers had texted loyalists earlier in an attempt to goad them into violence and that officers did not intervene when these men launched an attack.

Dr Maguire said his investigation has found "no evidence to suggest that police planning and actions that day were driven by anything other than a desire to prevent injury or damage to Coleraine and its citizens." He added that police "did all that could be reasonably asked of them" and that "the sole responsibility for what happened lies with those who attacked Mr McDaid and others in such a vicious way."

Dr Maguire said a forensic examination of police officers' phones "uncovered no evidence of any calls or text messages as alleged" to loyalists who were in a bar prior to the attack or to any of those later arrested.

He said that before the trouble broke out police had planned for the possibility of trouble. Dr Maguire also rejected "the most serious of the allegations" that police did not respond properly to reports of the attack and then, when they got to the scene, failed to intervene. "Police records and the eye witness statements do not back up this suggestion. Indeed some of the people who were there and saw what happened have praised the officers for their attempts to intervene," he said.

It is understood that Mr McDaid's family angrily walked out of a meeting with their lawyer upon hearing the Police Ombudsman's findings.

And one of Mr McDaid's friends, Damien Fleming, who was critically injured during the trouble, has launched civil proceedings against the PSNI.

"I have requested a full copy of the Police Ombudsman's report and investigation on which they based their conclusions and this may be subject to further legal challenge," said Mr Fleming, who has been left in need of life-long care. He added: "I intend to proceed with civil action against the Chief Constable for breach of statutory duty."

Nine men were jailed last year in connection with Mr McDaid's death.

Belfast Telegraph


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