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01.11.2019

Police offer protection to witnesses who expose Lyra McKee's killer

By Jane Whyatt

More than six months after investigative reporter Lyra McKee was murdered, police hunting the killer are offering a range of measures to protect witnesses. In addition a reward of £10,000 (11,500 euros) is on offer for information that leads to a conviction in the case.

Police offer proetction to witnesses who expose Lyra McKee's killer Screenshot from police video of suspects on the night Lyra McKee was shot. Photo: PSNI

Video statements, voice distortion and anonymity can be used to ensure that the New IRA dissident Republican group, which has claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting, cannot carry out its threat that “informants will be killed“. The warning has been daubed in graffiti around the district where the shoot happened.

Christy Hunter of the Police Service of Northern Ireland answered ECPMF’s questions:

ECPMF: What progress has been made so far in the investigation and what steps are being taken to ensure the safety of people who might have useful information but who fear reprisals?

Christy Hunter: Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, the senior investigating officer from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team investigating the murder of Lyra McKee said: “Detectives continue to work tirelessly to bring those responsible for the murder of Lyra McKee to justice. 

“To date, nine people have been arrested in connection with the investigation and ongoing disorder at the time of Lyra’s murder. Two men have been charged; a 51 year old man was charged with arson of a vehicle, riot and petrol bomb offences and a 38 year old man was charged with arson, hijacking, riot and petrol bomb offences. 23 searches have been conducted and officers are currently working through the significant amount of CCTV and other video evidence that has been recovered and conducting a thorough examination.

Anonymity, voice distortion and video statements offered

“Five and a half thousand households in the area have received a letter appealing for information in relation to the murder. We have received a great response from the local community with 150 contacts made to us through the Major Incident Public Portal. I welcome this positive response but continue to urge all those with information to contact us. I fully understand the issues local people face in coming forward with information to the police and I want to reiterate a personal reassurance that we are able to deal with these concerns sensitively. 



 “I have spoken to a Senior Prosecutor at the Public Prosecution Service, to understand what protection I can offer to witnesses. For the purpose of this investigation, I will provide anonymity for witnesses to the murder and the activities of the gunman. They will be referred to as Witness A, B, C etc and their identity will be revealed only to the Public Prosecution Service.

“Witnesses may not be required to give evidence in court, but if they are, I will request the maximum protection.  This may include options such as anonymity, giving evidence by video link, from behind screens and with voice distortion. I have no intention of placing witnesses at risk. We will work positively and constructively with witnesses, the courts and the Public Prosecution Service, to consider what measures may be appropriate in the event of a trial.


“We remain determined in our search for justice for Lyra’s family and will continue to work with the community to catch Lyra’s killers and put them before the courts.”

Q: Lyra McKee was investigating historic crimes committed during the Troubles and had written two books based on her research when she was killed. What do you make of the theory that she was killed in order to prevent the discovery and publication of details that might incriminate leading public figures or members of the security service?

A: A murder investigation was launched following the tragic murder of Lyra McKee and is being carried out by one of PSNI’s Major Investigation Teams. Dissident republicans who claimed responsibility  for the murder brought a gun onto the streets with an intent to kill or injure. It is the assessment of the Senior Investigating Officer that the likely targets for the attack, were police officers who were in a vehicle close to where Lyra was standing.  The indiscriminate attack within the community was both reckless and intentional. There is no evidence to suggest that Lyra or anyone else stood near her, was the intended target of this attack. Since 18 April 2019, we have maintained an intensive focus on the role that the New IRA played in Lyra’s murder.

Q: How could we in the international media freedom community help, for example by disseminating appeals for information and interviewing those close to Lyra who deserve justice and closure?

For guidance: The SIO has said that the international media community could help him by appealing to those who recorded video footage of the gunman to contact detectives on 101 or via the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 which is 100% anonymous. Alternatively, the public can use the Major Incident Public Portal at to upload footage or tell police what you know.