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Two teens held over ‘senseless and appalling’ murder of journalist Lyra McKee

The 29-year-old was shot dead by dissident republicans believed to be from the New IRA.

Lyra McKee (circled) within the crowd watching a protest in Londonderry (PSNI/PA)
Lyra McKee (circled) within the crowd watching a protest in Londonderry (PSNI/PA)

Two teenagers have been arrested by police in connection with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland.

The men, aged 18 and 19, were detained under anti-terrorism legislation and have been taken to a police station in Belfast for questioning, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

An outpouring of tributes to the 29-year-old was led by her partner, Sara Canning, who said Ms McKee’s “amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act”.

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Lyra McKee was shot and killed when guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in what police are treating as a ‘terrorist incident’ (Family handout/PA)

The published author, from Belfast, was shot in the head by suspects who police believe were dissident republicans linked to the New IRA, as they clashed with police on the Creggan estate in Londonderry on Thursday night.

A bunch of flowers left outside the city’s landmark civic building, the 19th century Guildhall, said: “never in my name”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley was amongst the first to sign a book of condolence inside the Guildhall on Saturday morning.

She wrote: “A tragic loss, such promise, such energy, so much potential.

“We can only imagine what you would have achieved.”

A floral tribute at the scene left by Ms McKee’s partner Sara read: “My beautiful Lyra, our time together was too short, and your light was snuffed out too soon.

“I love you forever, your Sara xxx.”

Local resident John McGonagle signed the Guildhall book of condolence.

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Local resident John McGonagle signed the book of condolence (MIchael McHugh/PA)

He had been a city centre business owner during the decades of conflict when violent deaths were commonplace.

Mr McGonagle said: “I am revolted by the whole thing. It is a retrograde step.

“Derry is one of the most wonderful cities in the world.

“It does not need it or deserve it and Lyra did not deserve to die, it is as simple as that.”

CCTV released by PSNI captured her final moments at around 10pm, when she stood among a crowd of other innocent bystanders and raised her phone in the air, apparently to photograph the violence.

Shaky mobile phone footage also released by detectives showed a masked gunman lean from behind cover and appear to fire shots towards police and onlookers.

The same individual was also photographed with another man lighting a petrol bomb.

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Still from CCTV of the man (circled) suspected of firing the shots that killed Lyra McKee (PSNI/PA)

Police, who described the shooting as a “terrorist incident”, believe the violence was orchestrated in response to an earlier search by officers aimed at averting imminent trouble associated with this week’s anniversary of the Easter Rising.

Around 50 petrol bombs were thrown in the confrontation and two cars were burned out.

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The murder suspect with another man lighting a petrol bomb (Niall Carson/PA)

Officers believe more than one person was involved in the murder.

In the video footage an accomplice beside the gunman appears to crouch and pick something up from the spot where the shots were fired.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading the inquiry, described the murder as “senseless and appalling beyond belief”.

“People saw the gunman and people saw those who goaded young people out onto the streets, people know who they are,” he said.

Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin addressed the suspects directly at a press conference, saying: “This was not done to further any cause, this will have achieved nothing other than to plunge a family into grief.”

Political leaders including Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joined to condemn the murder.

“My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues,” Mrs May said. “She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage.”

Mr Varadkar added: “We cannot allow those who want to propagate violence, fear and hate to drag us back to the past.”

Former United States president Bill Clinton tweeted: “Heartbroken by the murder of Lyra McKee and the violence in Derry.

“The challenges in NI today are real–but we cannot let go of the last 21 years of hard-won peace and progress. This tragedy is a reminder of how much everyone has to lose if we do.”

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the murder of Lyra McKee was “a reminder of how fragile peace still is in Northern Ireland”, adding: “We must all work to preserve the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

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Sara Canning, Ms McKee’s partner, paid tribute to the ‘love of my life'(Brian Lawless/PA)

A vigil was held in Creggan in Ms McKee’s memory, organised by local residents who said they felt sad and angry.

She had recently moved to Derry to live with “love of her life” Ms Canning and was also an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer, a trade publication covering the media industry.

In 2016, Forbes Magazine named her one of their 30 under 30 in media and she was working on a book due to be published in 2020.

PA

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