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Pregnant woman who rescued Catholic murder victim’s wife

Leona Whittaker, who is 10 weeks' pregnant, said her main concern was getting Evelyn to safety
Leona Whittaker, who is 10 weeks' pregnant, said her main concern was getting Evelyn to safety
Kevin McDaid
PSNI forensic officers at the scene of the murder
Evelyn McDaid, widow of Kevin McDaid
Ryan McDaid, (centre) son of Kevin McDaid, who was murdered last night, with Celtic shirts placed at the scene were Kevin died
Peter Neill, who was with Kevin McDaid when they were attacked by a loyalist gang
A PSNI forensic officer at the scene of the murder
Friends comfort Kevin Brendan McDaid's wife at the murder scene
Sinn Fein Councillor Billy Leonard at the scene where Kevin McDaid was murdered. Pacemaker Press
SDLP's John Dallat at the scene were Kevin McDaid died. Pacemaker Press
Forensics remove evidence at the scene where Kevin McDaid died. Pacemaker Press
Police outside the Scotts Bar in New Market Street were crowds allegally gathered before the sectarian attack at Summerset Drive Pacemaker Press
The scene of the assault at Sommerset Drive, Coleraine
Peter Neil, a friend of the murder victim, who was attacked during the disturbances in Coleraine
The scene of the assault at Sommerset Drive, Coleraine
A friend hugs a son of Kevin McDaid at the scene of the murder of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine
Ryan McDaid son of Kevin McDaid
Police stand guard at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine
The scene of the assault at Sommerset Drive, Coleraine
The scene of the assault at Sommerset Drive, Coleraine
The scene of the assault at Sommerset Drive, Coleraine

By Lesley-Anne Henry

This is the pregnant woman who risked everything to save tragic Kevin McDaid’s widow.

Leona Whittaker, who is 10 weeks pregnant, was struck on the head as she rescued her friend from the loyalist mob.

The expectant mother-of-one admitted she had been terrified but knew if she didn’t pull Evelyn McDaid from the gang’s violent grasp she too could have died.

Holding back tears as she recounted the horrifc events of Sunday night, Leona said she was left totally “traumatised”.

She explained: “I went to help Evelyn and they launched an attack on me. People were still trying to kick Evelyn as I was lifting her up. I was attacked and hit on the head. I have bumps on my head, there are no cuts on my face but my head is really sore.

“My main concern was for Evelyn, I just went on to auto-pilot.

“I was up at the hospital and got checked out and thankfully everything is ok.

“I am just in total shock, though — Evelyn was my main concern, and getting her out of there. There were about half a dozen of them at her — but I don’t really remember too much about it — I just wanted to get her out. Every time I close my eyes I see what they did to Kevin. I was terrified. I just didn’t know what to do, my main concern was getting Evelyn out of there.”

Ms Whittaker has lived in the Heights area of Coleraine for most of her life and has been close to the McDaid family for three years.

She said the former cross-community worker had been a father figure to everyone in the estate.

Added Leona: “I have known Kevin and Evelyn all my life but we have been neighbours and good friends for three years.

“He was a very good friend and you couldn’t ask for anyone better. He would help anybody out if he possibly could. If you had a job that needed doing he would do it, no problem. We all live in each other’s pockets round here.

“We all help each other. We are in total shock, he was just the kindest person, he was always the one you would go to if you had any problems. He was quiet but a real family man and helped people through their tough days.

“He was a father to everybody, a dad to the whole community — this area has lost a fine man.”

Meanwhile the priest expected to lead Kevin McDaid’s funeral later this week has vowed to speak out against sectarianism.

Fr Charles Keaney said his parishioners in the Heights were outraged and he would address their feelings in his homily.

“To kick somebody’s head like a football — what sort of minds do they have?”

Speaking from the parochial house at Laurel Hill close to the scene of the murder, Fr Keaney paid this tribute: “He was a good, modest family man, a very hard worker. He did a lot of cross-community work, he was a peaceful man. What has happened on Sunday is like something from the dark ages, it is mindless. To have someone just come in and murder somebody else is just evil. It’s not about religion, it’s not about football, it is just evil. We do not want that in our community.”

He added: “I will be offering guidance and comfort for the family reflecting and feeling of the people in the area. They are all very angry and very distraught. It is a very difficult situation for everyone. Kevin McDaid was not a man of violence, he was a man of love, not one who went looking for trouble, and that’s a fact.”

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