Shooting of off-duty officer was ‘terrorist-related’, police say

Shooting of off-duty officer was ‘terrorist-related’, police say thumbnail


olice in Northern Ireland have confirmed they are treating the shooting of an off-duty police officer in Co Tyrone as terrorist-related, and their primary line of inquiry is the New IRA.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan gave an update on the attempted murder investigation following the shooting of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell on Wednesday.

“Following the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell on Wednesday February 22 I can confirm that we are now treating it as terrorist-related and our primary line of inquiry is the New IRA,” he said.

“Detectives want anyone who was in the area or who witnessed what happened to call 101 quoting reference number 1831 of 22/02/23.”

Detective Caldwell was gunned down on Wednesday night at a sports complex in Omagh.

Police have arrested three men aged 38, 45 and 47 under the Terrorism Act in connection with the attempted murder.

Children waiting to be picked up by their parents “ran for cover in sheer terror” as the shooting began, police said.

Mr Caldwell remains in a critical condition in hospital after sustaining wounds to his torso.

The head teacher of Omagh High School, where Mr Caldwell was a former pupil, said a number of students who witnessed the attack were “experiencing a huge degree of trauma”.

Mr Caldwell had been putting footballs in the boot of his car when two gunmen approached and began shooting. He tried to flee but fell to the ground where the gunmen continued to fire at him.

A “brave” member of the public was praised by police for rushing in and providing first aid after the attack.

It is thought one of the men arrested is a prominent Republican dissident.

Mr Caldwell is a high-profile officer who has led a number of major investigations, including taking a leading role in the murder case following the killing of Natalie McNally in Lurgan in December. He was also involved in the investigation into the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019.