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Sunday Life

Lyra McKee killed for TV cameras: New IRA wanted publicity with MTV in Derry for documentary

Lyra McKee with her partner Sara Canning
Lyra McKee with her partner Sara Canning

By Ciaran Barnes

A radicalised 18-year-old New IRA gunman murdered writer Lyra McKee in a desperate bid to impress an MTV documentary crew filming young dissidents in Derry City.

Popular presenter and DJ Reggie Yates had been on the Creggan estate for several days recording hardline republicans for his upcoming Reggie Yates vs The World series.

Fearing the New IRA was preparing to stage a show of strength for the cameras, the PSNI raided the homes of several leading dissidents, searching for firearms.

Senior cops were determined not to have a repeat of embarrassing scenes filmed last year by BBC presenter Stacey Dooley, who spoke to four masked members of the terror gang in Derry for a programme on punishment shootings.

The New IRA responded to Thursday's pre-emptive PSNI searches by sending teenagers to riot at Fanad Drive, knowing full well that MTV cameras would capture the violence. A bewildered Reggie Yates was pictured at the scene as the trouble unfolded.

In a propaganda effort that has now backfired spectacularly, a baby-faced young gunman was ordered by New IRA chiefs onto the streets. He was filmed clutching a handgun and firing several shots from behind a wall across a burning car at a PSNI vehicle.

Belfast-born Lyra McKee was among a few onlookers standing next to the vehicle and was struck in the head by a single bullet.

Two teenagers arrested in connection with her murder, aged 18 and 19, have been released unconditionally by police.

After being shot, Lyra (29), who had been living with her partner Sara Canning in Creggan for the past year, was rushed to nearby Altnagelvin Hospital, but died within 15 minutes.

While republican sources in Derry have confirmed that the New IRA brought a gun onto the streets to stage a show of strength for the media on Thursday night, MTV yesterday denied that the presence of its crew on the ground fanned the flames of the riot.

MTV presenter Reggie Yates in Londonderry
MTV presenter Reggie Yates in Londonderry

A statement said: “As stated by the PSNI, there is no evidence of any sort to show that the presence of media on the ground contributed or impacted the situation on the Creggan estate the night that Lyra McKee was tragically shot and killed. The crowds had already assembled following a police search in the area and upon hearing about the search, a production company filming a documentary for MTV made their way to the area, as did multiple other news crews who were also present on the scene. MTV is not a line of enquiry in police investigations.”

Both republican and security sources have identified the gunman as an 18-year-old male, born after the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace accord, who has been radicalised by the New IRA.

Until two years ago, photographs on his social media pages painted the picture of the life of a normal teenage boy, with interests in football and fast cars.

But after being brainwashed by the New IRA, these images changed to those of gunmen and graves.

Locals on the Creggan estate also named the veteran republican who sent Lyra McKee's killer and his teenage pals out to riot for the MTV cameras.

He is a former Provo, who was heavily involved in the drug dealer extortion group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), which merged with the Real IRA to form the New IRA in 2012.

This Fagin-type character, aged in his 60s and who has battled a recent serious illness, is a member of hardline republican group Saoradh - the political wing of the New IRA.

He once penned an article for one of its news-sheets accusing peace process supporting republicans of being controlled by their "Brit masters".

"It was this bitter old b*****d who organised the riot and sent that wee lad out with the gun," one furious Derry republican told Sunday Life.

"This was all done to impress Reggie Yates and the MTV crew which was filming in Creggan.

"The New IRA was trying to make Derry look lawless, like the young ones here are fighting a constant running battle with the PSNI.

"It was all for the optics, a propaganda effort, and now an innocent woman is dead because of it."

CCTV images of the gunman issued by police
CCTV images of the gunman issued by police

An MTV spokesperson said: "We can confirm that a production company was filming a documentary series for MTV in Northern Ireland and was present in the Creggan area where journalist Lyra McKee was tragically shot and killed.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to Lyra's family and friends, and our thoughts are with the people of Derry during this tragic time."

London-born Yates (35), is an actor, presenter and radio DJ, known for playing Leo Jones in Doctor Who and presenting various shows for Radio 1 with Fearne Cotton.

He also co-presented with Emma Willis the prime-time BBC One game show Prized Apart, and fronted the BBC Three shows Reggie Yates Extreme Russia and Extreme UK. Announcing his new eight-part MTV series Reggie Yates vs The World, the producers said in each episode he would immerse himself in extreme and unusual situations with topical relevance for young people.

Yates added: "In this series I'll encounter challenging situations and bring new insight into just some of the areas affecting young people all over the world."

Security sources confirmed that the PSNI's "intelligence-led" raids against the New IRA which preceded the riot that claimed Lyra's life were aimed at seizing weapons.

A car is set alight in the Creggan area of Derry last Thursday, the night Lyra McKee was shot dead
A car is set alight in the Creggan area of Derry last Thursday, the night Lyra McKee was shot dead

Top cops believed the guns were to be used in a show of strength to impress MTV cameras filming dissidents in the city for a programme on young people in "extreme and unusual situations".

A senior detective explained how police received credible information on Wednesday that some sort of armed New IRA display, or possible gun attack, was being planned for the following evening.

"Numerous intelligence reports suggested this," said our source.

"It's no coincidence that this was to take place while a film crew was tailing local dissident republicans."

It must be stressed that presenter Reggie Yates and his MTV crew behaved professionally at all times and did not encourage dissidents to engage in violence, to riot, or to bring guns onto the streets.

That was entirely the decision of New IRA chiefs who tried to take advantage of the film-makers being in Derry and score a propaganda coup.

The terror gang in the city is led by Thomas Ashe Mellon, a former member of both the Provisional IRA and RAAD, who is on a 10-year MI5 watch list.

The 43-year-old was hit with a Terrorist Notification Order, which is usually only issued against Islamic State members, after being jailed for 15 months in 2015 for having a document linked to dissident republicans.

Among Mellon's closet associates is Kieran McCool (50), who was convicted of possessing a stun-gun in 2011. Earlier this year he was arrested in connection with a £100,000 New IRA robbery, but freed without charge.

McCool was previously named during court proceedings as a "key member" of the extortion gang Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD), which became the New IRA in 2012.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday at Strand Road PSNI station in Derry, Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, the officer leading the Lyra McKee murder inquiry, said a new breed of terrorists is coming through the ranks and that is "very worrying".

"Lyra's murder was not just an attack on Lyra, it was an attack on the fabric of this community," he added.

"Lyra's killers have succeeded in only one thing, and that is in uniting the entire community in condemnation."

He said his officers had identified "palpable" change in support of the police.

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