Detective leading Natalie McNally murder investigation warns anyone shielding culprit will also be pursued ‘to full extent of the law’
A senior policeman says he is certain that someone knows who killed Natalie McNally and if they do not come forward they will also be pursued to the “full extent of the law”.
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan was speaking ahead of a vigil in Lurgan today to remember the 32-year-old and her unborn baby boy, Dean.
Natalie, who was 15 weeks’ pregnant, was murdered in her home in the Co Armagh town on December 18.
She was beaten and stabbed, and suffered defensive wounds as she tried to fight off her killer.
Due to the brutality of the slaying, her killer would almost certainly have been covered in blood and would have had to wash or dispose of clothing and shoes.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Corrigan said: “In cases such as this I believe that there would not be many people who would know who did this, but from my experience I would be fairly certain that there is at least one or two people who know.
“They may have suspicions about a partner or loved one, they may not want to actually confront those suspicions themselves.
“And I would appeal to those individuals who do know or do have strong suspicion about a friend or a loved one that they really need to examine their conscience and tell us what they know.
“The other side of this is if we get to a stage where we identify anyone who has been assisting or harbouring Natalie’s killer, we will pursue them with the full extent of the law as well.”
The killer was filmed on CCTV entering Silverwood Green at 8.52pm on December 18 - the night of the World Cup final - and left around 30 minutes later.
There are concerns that, almost six weeks later, no one has been charged.
Natalie’s family have all been issued with alarms and extra security with the murderer still on the loose.
Det Chief Insp Corrigan added: “A good percentage of our investigations we are able to resolve in a relatively short period of time, often within seven or eight days.
“But all investigations are different and you get different evidence in different cases.
“I can’t go into specific details about why this investigation is so difficult, but it is a complex investigation.
“We are putting the appropriate resource to it.
“We are talking about dozens of officers working on this investigation at this moment in time.”
Three people have been arrested to date. Two are currently on police bail, with the other ruled out of the investigation.
Houses and cars have been searched, as well as Silverwood Green and the surrounding area.
Det Chief Insp Corrigan said: “It isn’t what people see on television. Forensics is a detailed process and can take a lot of time, and indeed, the forensic examination of Natalie’s home is still ongoing.
“Within an investigation such as this we need time for those processes to be carried out.
“We have a phased approach to submissions, the lab can only deal with so many exhibits at a time, and the forensic examinations continue.
“In a major crime examination such as this what we will do as part of a phased forensic examination is we will call in the specialist fingerprint unit and they will chemically treat the property to lift fingerprints.
“That is ongoing, it’s not unique to this investigation but it is one we carry out in major crime investigations.
“A firm hypothesis is that the person who killed Natalie knew her, knew the area, and had been to the address before.
“We consider various hypotheses and we keep an open mind.
“But as the investigation continues obviously information and evidence will strengthen some hypotheses and weaken others, and I am of the firm belief that Natalie would have known who killed her.
“We’ve seized multiple devices and that helps form our opinion as to what the particular scenario was on the evening, but at this stage of the investigation I can’t really say any more about the specifics of that.”
Part of the murder probe is looking at Natalie’s social media. An activist on women’s rights issues, she was friends with people she met through social media who shared her various interests.
“Natalie was a frequent user of social media and different platforms,” added Det Chief Insp Corrigan.
He said part of the investigation was “building a picture of Natalie’s life”.
He continued: “Who knew her, who may have visited the address, who may have known where she lived and what she did within her social life? That helps us build a picture and we hope leads us to some answers.”
He said anyone who interacted with Natalie via group chats or in private messages was being contacted.
“We are proactively going through all of Natalie’s social media history and we are seeking those people out and speaking to them, tracking them down and seeing if they have anything of use to the investigation.
“And we have tracked down and spoken to lots of people and continue to do so.
“The nature of a major investigation such as this does take time, and it takes time for a lot of different reasons.
“We’ve received about 4,000 hours of CCTV, each hour of that to watch and log properly takes about three hours, so you can start doing the calculations on that.
“To go through CCTV that may have a section that is no more than 10 or 20 seconds - that could make or break a potential case.
“So that is a painstaking, time-consuming, resource-intensive work.
“We are making our way through that, so everything is progressing.
“While I can’t give assurances that we will be able to identify the person who killed Natalie, and we can never give assurances like that, what I can tell you is the investigation is progressing and we are starting to form a clearer picture.
“We just need to be patient and give the investigation team the time and space to find the answers.”
Natalie’s sibling Declan said the family were concentrating on the vigil organised in his sister’s memory.
He also revealed police had asked the family would they like Christmas presents that were neatly wrapped in Natalie’s home in preparation for the festive period, which she planned to celebrate with them.
Instead, Natalie was waked at her parents’ home on Christmas Day and buried on St Stephen’s Day.
Declan said a detective told them Natalie may have been speaking to someone online who was not who they claimed to be.
He again appealed to anyone who was in contact with his sister via social media to come forward.
“Every day that the killer isn’t caught is so difficult,” he added.
“My mother’s door would never have been locked and now we all have alarms fitted because the killer is still out there.”
Local PSNI commander Brendan Green said there was still fear among women living alone in Lurgan that the murderer had not been caught.
He said police have been handing out personal alarms to them since the attack.
“We are trying to walk a fine line between providing reassurance but also not causing any additional fear,” he added.
“Sometimes people are coming up to us and asking is something going on, because there are a lot of police about.
“But we need to be visible, we need to give people an opportunity to speak to us, and we need to support the detectives who are running the investigation.
“We understand why people are frightened in the wake of something so tragic, especially at Christmas and during the dark nights.
“It is not helped by some of the social media commentary that goes on around it, with some people trying to stoke fear.
“That’s a challenge we have to deal with on the ground.”
The vigil for Natalie will take place today at 2pm in Lurgan Park.