Northern Ireland's Chief Constable has said that society must face up to sectarianism as an investigation begins into the police response to the brutal murder of a Catholic father-of-four by a loyalist mob.
Speaking for the first time about the murder of Kevin McDaid, which has appalled people across Northern Ireland, Sir Hugh Orde described the police operation and stressed the importance of community police officers in the hunt for the killers.
Ten people, including a 15-year-old youth, were last night being quizzed about the murder of Mr McDaid in Coleraine. Two men were released yesterday.
It has also emerged that Sir Hugh has called in the Police Ombudsman to investigate the police response to the murder following allegations that officers stood around while Mr McDaid was beaten to death.
The Chief Constable has given a wide-ranging interview to the Belfast Telegraph about policing, which will be published later this week. During the interview he referred to the murder of Mr McDaid, a crime he described as “appalling”.
Sir Hugh said the problems of sectarianism “still exist and that is a society issue which society needs to deal with. We’ll absolutely deal with the crime side of it, but society has to face up to this”.
Speaking about the police response to the murder, the Chief Constable said: “A full major inquiry team was there very quickly — fully-trained detectives working with the local community officers who were critical in this and will be critical in this investigation to make sure that everything is done as quickly as it can be.”
Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay said police would deal with any claims that members of the PSNI sat in vehicles watching the murder.
According to reports, Mr McDaid’s son Ryan alleged he shouted to officers in a patrol car for help as he held his dying father.
However, Mr Finlay said that police have no knowledge of that incident.
He said: “We hear this allegation of police sitting and not intervening. It’s not one we have any knowledge of ourselves.
“But we really want more information about that in order to explore that, and we will do that robustly.
“If people consider that the police response was wanting in any way, shape or form, then we need to hear of that and let us seek to address that.”
Mr Finlay said neighbourhood |officers had worked “tirelessly” |between the two communities and |believed tension had “de-escalated.”
“The first two officers on the scene were actively engaged in trying to arrest one of the aggressors and such was the hostility of the crowd at that time they had to let that individual go. But he is now re-arrested.”
“They were joined very quickly by a second two officers, who immediately rendered first aid on Mr McDaid, including CPR, in an attempt to save his life.”
Mr Finlay said he believed there were tensions in the Heights area after Rangers won the Scottish Premier League over rivals Celtic.
“It was known there was a suggestion there was going to be some impromptu band parade. This rumour was scotched and the situation was understood to the neighbourhood policing unit to have de-escalated.”
Mr Finlay said the community at the Heights erected tricolours after they believed an “exhibition of triumphalism” was to take place.
“They had responded by building some barricades across roads and putting up some flags,” Mr Finlay said.
“This had been defused in discussions between communities and the neighbourhood policing team.
“Kevin was material in being involved in removing some of those barricades and was going to be involved in the removal of the flags in the future.”
However, when asked if he felt there were enough officers dispatched that day given the threat of violence, Mr Finlay said it needed examining.
“It is obviously something that we need to look at and consider.”
Mr Finlay said an investigation will be carried out into the events surrounding the death — as is normal in such incidents.
“The question we will ask ourselves — should we have done more? could we have done more?”
However, he said the work of other agencies and communities also need to be examined.
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