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Murder-charge man's family forced to flee

RELATIVES of a man charged with the murder of an 11-year-old boy have been forced out of their homes by angry mobs.

Priests in Strabane, Co Tyrone, yesterday appealed for calm after violence flared following the funeral of Kieran Hegarty, who was battered to death in a wood near his home, and whose naked body was found in a drain.

During the funeral service, Kieran's mother, Kathleen, collapsed.

Crowds started to gather a few hours after the funeral and some members of the crowd set fire to the home of a sister of the teenager accused of Kieran's murder, Mrs Sharon Ray.

Later, the crowd attacked the home of the accused man's mother, Sheila Doherty, who had earlier fled her house when she began to fear for her life.

At one stage during the disturbances, the police were pelted with stones.

Father Oliver Crilly, a local Catholic priest, speaking of the accused man's relatives, said yesterday: 'These people have suffered terribly.

'They are more devastated than anyone in the community by what has happened and it's unbelievable that they can be treated like this.

'The majority of people would not want them to leave the area, but there are a few stirring it up.

'It takes away from the genuine community feeling and support for the Hegarty family and creates a different kind of image.'

Brian Doherty, 19, was remanded in custody until 28 January when he appeared before a special court in Strabane on Friday night charged with Kieran's murder.