Lyra McKee, left, was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while watching rioting on Fanad Drive in Creggan on April 18, 2019.
The senior police officer leading the investigation into the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Derry over two years ago has spoken of his 'huge frustration' at the lack of eye-witnesses who have come forward.
Despite this, the family of the 29-year-old journalist, who was shot dead by a New IRA gunman on April 18, 2019 while watching a riot on Fanad Drive in Creggan, have said they 'will not rest' until her killer is brought to justice.
Police believe up to 150 people were in the vicinity when Ms McKee was killed.
However, in an interview with yesterday’s Sunday Independent, PSNI Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said the number of those people who have contacted his investigating team was ‘probably in the single figures.’
Despite this ongoing ‘wall of silence,’ DS Murphy praised the ‘community support’ they have received during their investigation.
To date, three men have been charged with Ms McKee’s murder and one man has been charged with possessing the gun used in the attack.
A further five men have been charged in connection with events on the night she was killed.
Cases against another nine people have been sent to the Public Prosecution Service in relation to the death of the young Belfast writer, who had moved to Derry a short time before her death to live with her partner.
Her death led an international wave of revulsion and her funeral was attended by political leaders from Ireland and Britain.
The New IRA admitted one of its members was responsible for killing Ms McKee. The gun used to kill her has been recovered during the police investigation.
However, DS Murphy insisted his team had ‘unfinished business.’
“I know who the gunman is. I know who everybody is and the roles that they all played. What I need is the evidence to convict all those individuals,” he said.
DS Murphy is convinced there is evidence still to be found which could ‘unlock’ aspects of the investigation.
“I have always had a massive recognition and a huge frustration that 150 people watched Lyra McKee being shot that night.
“However, through their own personal fears, reservations or whatever personal reasons they have, very few of them have been able to come forward to talk to me about what they saw, what they heard and more importantly who was involved.
“That’s why we have had to put two-and-half-years of work into piecing together the jigsaws.”
DS Murphy said he understood some people’s reluctance to come forward but said his team had dealt with a ‘huge’ amount of evidence without anyone being ‘compromised’.
He said while many people in Creggan would not have confidence in the police, his team had been working hard to address those concerns.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy making his first appeal for information about the murder of Lyra McKee from Strand Road Police Station in April 2019.
He renewed an appeal for those who were in the area on the night Ms McKee was killed to come forward.
“Of the 150 people who watched what took place that night, 20 statements from those individuals in total would have been enough to have charged all the individuals in relation to Lyra’s murder because I am absolutely convinced that large swathes of that crowd knew a significant number of those people who were involved that night.
“These weren’t people who were parachuted in from somewhere else. These were people were local to Derry, many of whom were local to Creggan.
“So my frustration was always there with a potential 150 witnesses. I should have 150 witness statements. So far, I have significantly less than 150, probably in the single figures.”
On the night that Ms McKee was killed, a TV documentary team, led by presenter Reggie Yates, was filming in Creggan.
DS Murphy said the footage, which police secured following a legal application, had proven ‘crucial’ to the investigation.
However, he said more video footage was needed.
“I know that a significant number of those who watched the rioting recorded footage on their mobile phones.
“I have repeatedly appealed for that material because one piece of footage could be absolutely critical to unlocking the evidence around a whole series of suspects.
“I do believe that that video material must exist. I just don’t know where. We have done an awful lot of searches to recover mobile phones and footage but if I could ask for one thing it would be for more video footage because that has been central to the charges we have been able to bring so far.”
DS Murphy added: “I have got unfinished business and I will continue to be relentless until I satisfy that unfinished business and part of that is the gunman.
“That is part of my unfinished business, it is Lyra’s family’s unfinished business and, therefore, it must be my priority.”
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Ms McKee’s sister, Nicola Corner, said while she had been comforted by the police progress, her family had been 'forced to relive the tragedy all over again.'
She said every arrest had left her family.on the edge of our seats with our hearts in our mouths, unable to breathe, awaiting the outcome of the policing and judicial processes.'
“Every time a paper publishes a story about Lyra or her murder case, every time the TV news airs a story, every time that Twitter is updated, we are all thrown into a heightened state of awareness, we lose our ability to breathe automatically, we are forced to relive our personal trauma and we just don't know how to deal with it,” she added.
She said she would 'not rest' until the gunman responsible for killing her sister was brought to justice.
“Despite direct appeals to the gunman that I have made myself personally, he continues to hide behind his mask and he continues to stand in the shadows as his so-called 'friends' are being pursued for their roles in Lyra's murder and the events leading up to this horrific act.”
Ms Corner described the man responsible for the murder as a 'sad, pathetic coward.'
She added: “He has so many reasons to feel ashamed of himself and I hope he feels every ounce of that shame every time Lyra's name is mentioned anywhere. It could never match the pain that he caused, the pain that we have felt every single day since.
“I hope that God grants me enough time on this planet to see it with my own eyes; to see justice for Lyra, to see justice for my mummy. Until I draw my last breath, I will continue to pursue him; I will continue to pursue justice for my family.”
Mrs Corner paid tribute to PSNI officers working on the case, praising DS Murphy who, she said, had 'been relentless in pursuing justice for our Lyra.'
She added: “He is a man of his word. Despite delays imposed by the pandemic, we remain confident that justice will prevail.
"Everyone who has responsibility either collectively or personally for forcibly stealing the life of our beautiful, innocent sister from us will have to face the consequences of their actions in a court of law. We are confident of this,” she said.
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