Thursday 14 December 2017

Brave Lauren (18) who died trying to protect sister

Lauren's sister Brenda who was critically injured in the attack
A general view of the police cordon at the scene of a shooting at William Court in Bellaghy, near Magherafelt, Co Derry. Photo: PA
Forensic police at the scene of a shooting at William Court in Bellaghy, near Magherafelt, Co Derry. Photo:

Steven McCaffery

THIS is the teenage girl who died trying to protect her sister in a horror gun attack at the weekend. Lauren O’Neill (18) was killed and her sister Brenda (21) was critically injured.

A 26-year-old man is to appear in court later charged with the murder of Lauren and the attempted murder of her sister.



Lauren O'Neill who had only recently celebrated her birthday was killed in a shooting in the village of Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Saturday morning.



Her 21-year-old sister Brenda is in a critical condition at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, after the shooting at a house in William Court.



Two young children who were in the house at the time, were not injured in the attack.



The man is to appear at magistrates' court in Derry on Monday.



Community leaders said the sisters' family is in deep shock after the shooting.



Stormont deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the family and said they are in trauma.



Mr McGuinness, who is MP for the area, said: "This family is clearly deeply shocked and traumatised by what has happened over the weekend. I spent some time with the family and offered our support and that of the wider community at this time."



SDLP representative Patsy McGlone said the community was stunned by the shooting.



"There is an overwhelming sense of shock amongst local people that something like this has happened," he said.



"Our thoughts are with them as they try to come to terms with this awful tragedy."



"I strongly appeal for anyone with information about this incident to pass it on to the police urgently."



A 26-year-old man was arrested in nearby Toomebridge on suspicion of murder within an hour of the shooting and is still being questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).



Another man and a woman, both aged 28, were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender but were released unconditionally on Saturday night by detectives.



It is understood the dead girl was living at her family home, in a neighbouring housing estate, and was visiting her older sister at the time of the shooting.



Bellaghy parish priest Fr Andrew Dolan said the teenager died trying to protect her sister: "When Brenda was under attack, Lauren dived in to save her and in the process lost her own life.



He told the BBC: "I'd say they were close in life and in death couldn't be closer."



A PSNI spokesman said police were alerted to the shooting shortly before 10.40am on Saturday.



The 26-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder at 11.10am in the Toomebridge area and taken to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim police station.



"I strongly appeal for anyone with information about this incident to pass it on to the police urgently."



Caoimhe Scullion, Sinn Fein councillor on Magherafelt District Council who lives in Bellaghy, said the tight-knit village had been plunged into shock over the gun attack.



"Everybody is in complete shock," she said.



"We hear these stories happening everywhere else, but you never think it will happen on your doorstep."



Ms Scullion said everybody knows everybody else in the small village.



Ian Milne, also a Sinn Fein councillor who lives in Bellaghy, said the dead girl marked her 18th birthday within the last two weeks.



"The area is in total shock," he said.



"Nobody can understand why this has happened. Everyone is very raw."



Mr Milne added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. We hope and pray the girl that is injured will make a recovery."

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