Friday 19 January 2018

Experts examine car bomb scene

Forensic officers gather evidence outside the home of PC Ronan Kerr, in Omagh, Co Tyrone. Photo: PA
Forensic officers gather evidence outside the home of PC Ronan Kerr, in Omagh, Co Tyrone. Photo: PA
Ronan Kerr's mum Nuala makes an appeal last night with her sons and daughter Cathair, Dairine and Aaron
Constable Ronan Kerr who was killed in a car bomb attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on Saturday
Tyrone footballers stand for a minute's silence before their National League game against Kildare at Dungannon yesterday
The scene of the car bomb
PSNI forensic experts at the scene

Police in the North are combing the scene of an explosion that killed a Catholic officer to find out how the dissident republican bomb was made.

Experts are gathering tiny shards of evidence from the site of the blast in Omagh, Co Tyrone, where new recruit Constable Ronan Kerr, 25, died. The car was badly damaged by the booby trap device planted in a busy residential housing area.

Security sources believe it is still too early to reach conclusions on details of the explosive as the forensic information is yet to be fully examined.

No armed group has yet claimed responsibility for the blast. The threat from dissidents has been high for some time. Queen Elizabeth is due to visit Dublin next month and security will be tight.

Mr Kerr only finished his initial training in December last year and was on his first posting in Enniskillen. He was going to work when the device exploded as he got into his car.

His grieving mother Nuala Kerr said: "This is at a time when we are striving for a neutral police force for the good of our country and I urge all Catholic members not to be deterred by this. We all need to stand up and be counted and to strive for equality.

"We don't want to go back into the dark days again of fear and terror. We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for. Don't let his death be in vain."

Politicians united in condemnation and vowed not to let the attack derail the solidarity.

The explosion happened as the officer got into his car in the residential Highfield Close development, off the main Gortin Road, yesterday afternoon.

The blast shocked Omagh, where 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the 1998 Real IRA car bomb attack.

Mrs Kerr said she was also speaking on behalf of his two brothers Cathair and Aaron and sister Dairine. Their father Brian died some time ago.

"He was a wonderful son and brother, always had a smile and a helping hand for everyone. He had all the attributes of a great police officer - fair, empathetic, intelligent, humorous, a great communicator and loyal to all who knew him. And he just loved his work," she said.

"I would like to appeal to the wider public for any information, no matter how small about this callous crime. Someone knows something. Would you please come forward and do the right thing so that justice can be done."

Dissidents have carried out a string of similar attacks on PSNI officers in recent years and have shown a determination to identify Catholic officers in particular for attack.

Pc Stephen Carroll, 48, was gunned down in March 2009, just two days after the Real IRA shot dead two British soldiers at the Massereene Army base in Antrim.

And Pc Peadar Heffron was seriously injured when a device exploded under the driver's seat of his car in west Belfast in January 2010.

The North's Justice Minister David Ford said there was no popular support for the terrorists.

"These acts of terror come from very small groups. It is absolutely clear the vast majority of people, either north or south, want to see the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement work, want to see a peaceful way forward," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

"What we are talking about is a small group of people who simply do not accept the democratic will of the vast majority of the people of Ireland."

The Highfield Close development has been reopened, but most residents have not yet returned after being evacuated on Saturday night.

A large white tent is still beside the house where the explosion happened and blue and white plastic covers much of the front of the modern whitewashed two-storey building.

Cars are parked around the estate, which is a comparatively recent development, and curtains are open, but the area is quiet.

Police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries to gather clues from residents.

Press Association

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