Fifth Arrest | 

Relative of top dissident is among five held over bid to murder PSNI officer John Caldwell

The 22-year-old was arrested yesterday in Coalisand and is being held along with four others at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning by anti-terror officers.

Doug Beattie, Colum Eastwood, Stephen Farry, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne, Michelle O’Neill and Jeffrey Donaldson arriving for a press conference outside the PSNI HQ in Belfast yesterday. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire© PA


Detectives believe a relative of a senior dissident republican, who is currently behind bars facing terror charges, is one of the gunmen who tried to murder PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell on Wednesday.

The 22-year-old was arrested yesterday in Coalisand and is being held along with four others at Musgrave Serious Crime Suite for questioning by anti-terror officers.

A fifth man, aged 43, was arrested in the Stewartstown area of Co Tyrone last night.

Mr Caldwell was shot a number of times in front of his young son by two gunmen outside a sports complex in Omagh.

He remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Police Federation chair Liam Kelly said he had suffered “life-changing” injuries.

The 22-year-old was arrested in the early hours of yesterday. Four other men aged 38, 43, 45 and 47, also arrested in Co Tyrone, remain in custody.

Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA, posted on social media that the 22-year-old is the chair of its Tyrone group.

Video footage of one of the suspects being taken away by police shows neighbours clapping in solidarity with the arrested man.

Detectives believe the New IRA was responsible for the attack that happened at a sports pitch where Mr Caldwell regularly coached an under-15 football team.

The leaders of the five main parties held a press conference with PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne yesterday. It followed on from a joint statement by them on Thursday condemning the shooting.

Following the meeting, Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill described what happened as an “attack on the peace process”.

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson added: “I would say to the evil people who carried out this heinous attack and to their organisation: you are not the future of this place. We stand against you.”

The chief constable said he had spoken to Mr Caldwell’s wife and son, who had been heavily affected by the incident, and they wanted to pass on their thanks both to first aiders at the scene, and for the outpouring of support across the community.

Two gunmen, dressed in dark clothing, approached Mr Caldwell as he was packing equipment into his car at the end of the coaching session.

The officer is reported to have shouted “run” to his son and other children nearby.

Mr Caldwell ran a short distance and fell to the ground, where the attackers continued to fire at him as the youngsters fled in terror, police said.

At least two vehicles were struck by the shots.

The gunmen fled in a small, dark-coloured car that was later set on fire at Racolpa Road in Omagh, a few miles away.

Two other vehicles were taken away from the scene of the shooting under police protection yesterday.

Mr Caldwell is the highest ranking officer to be targeted by republicans since the Good Friday Agreement. He has been in the police for 26 years, both with the RUC and PSNI.

He has led a number of recent major investigations, and initially took a key role in the Natalie McNally murder probe in December.

Ms McNally was 15 weeks pregnant at the time of her death. One man has been charged with her murder.

He was also the senior investigating officer in the Shane Whitla murder investigation. Mr Whitla was shot dead in Lurgan in January over a drug debt owed to criminal gang ‘The Firm’. Three people have been charged in connection with the killing.

The UK Home Office is expected to be briefed on the current security situation after the terrorism threat level in the North was lowered from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’ for the first time in 12 years last March.

That may now be reviewed following the murder bid.

Police have appealed to anyone who was in the area or who witnessed what happened to get in touch with any information.

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