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An Open Source Survey of the Shooting of Lyra McKee

April 19, 2019

By Bellingcat Investigation Team

Translations: Русский

All times appear as local time UTC+1. 

On the night of April 18 2019, a confrontation between Republican dissidents and police in the Creggan area of Derry/Londonderry resulted in the killing of Lyra McKee, a journalist who was at the scene watching the unrest.

The events that led to McKee’s killing began as police searched a home in an area in Creggan known as Mulroy Gardens. As the police operation unfolded, a crowd had already gathered at the scene by 9:45 PM. By 10:00 PM, some of the individuals in the crowd had begun to throw petrol bombs, bricks and other objects at the police.

This confrontation took place on a short stretch of Fanad Drive, just outside one of the entrances to Mulroy Gardens. There, police faced off against a crowd that had gathered approximately 50 meters from the police position. As the night unfolded, two vehicles were placed on the intersection of Fanad Drive and Central Drive and set ablaze.

By the end of the night, a man would open fire from the crowd’s position towards the police, killing Lyra McKee. The shooting was captured on video from at least four vantage points. Additionally, the authorities have released a CCTV compilation showing some of the unrest, including the moment that the shooter opened fire.

What follows is an account of the events in Creggan on the night of April 18 2019 that ended with the killing of Lyra McKee.

 

Confrontation on Fanad Drive

At approximately 9:45 PM, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) were executing a search on a home in Mulroy Gardens, in the Creggan area of Derry/Londonderry. A journalist named Leona O’Neill who was at the scene reported that the search involved “Army Technical Officers”. It is likely that O’Neill meant to say either “Ammunition Technical Officer” (ATO), or possibly “Explosive Ordnance Disposal” (EOD). In either case, vehicles which appear to be similar to those used by EOD units in Northern Ireland were present. Video shared on her Twitter account shows at least seven police vehicles at the scene as the house search got underway:

A team of officers wearing protective gear entered the home. By that time, a crowd was already at the scene recording the events:

Based on the footage shared by O’Neill, the location of the operation was geolocated:

Footage shared by O’Neill shows that the officers blocked a section of Fanad Drive at the intersection with Central Drive. There, the officers stationed two vehicles. By this time, a crowd had gathered at the intersection:

The location of the police vehicles, and the stretch of Fanad Drive on which the confrontation occurred, was geolocated to this spot:

By 10:00 PM, petrol bombs were being thrown at the police vehicles. The situation quickly deteriorated as more petrol bombs and other objects were thrown at the vehicles. On at least one occasion, a third police vehiclewhich was likely being held back in reserverushed forward to deter the rioters. This vehicle eventually stopped and then drove in reverse to its original location. It is likely that this is the vehicle besides which McKee was standing when she was shot.

As the confrontation continued, a vehicle was parked on the side of the street where the crowd was located and set ablaze. A second vehicle was later parked nearby and also set on fire:

 

The Shooting of Lyra McKee

At 11:08 PM, O’Neill reported that shots had been fired on Fanad Drive, and that a woman had been injured and rushed to hospital. That woman was Lyra McKee.

The shooting was caught on video from at least four vantage points: two filmed from inside the crowd, and two filmed from the police position. Lyra was located near the police position when she was killed. A fifth video compilation from CCTV footage was also released by the authorities, which also showed some of the shooting.

 

Videos from the Crowd’s Position

The two videos filmed from inside the crowd captured some of the shooting. In the first video, two shots can be heard, but the shooter is obscured by the wreckage of a burned vehicle:

The second video was filmed from a different angle, and captured approximately the same moment as the video above. In this video, however, the shooter—a man whose face is covered—and an individual who appears to be accompanying him are clearly visible. This video also captured the moment when individuals, possibly including the shooter, picked up items from the ground (likely shell casings) after the shooting:

Below, the vantage point of the first video (dotted red line) and the second video (dotted blue line). The position of the shooter is marked with a black “X”, and the approximate location of the police vehicles on Fanad drive is marked by the yellow box:

 

Videos from the Police Position

A third video was filmed behind the police line. In that video, the armed man fires once. At 0:19, the woman who is heard screaming for help in the two previous videos can also be heard.

 

 

A fourth video, also shot from behind the police lines, captured the confrontation on Fanad Drive from approximately six minutes before the first shot was fired. Starting at approximately the six minute mark in the video, four shots can be heard. A period of approximately 20 seconds spans between the first shot and the last. Six seconds separate the moment that the last shot is fired and the moment that the woman begins to scream for help after McKee has been shot:

Based on the three videos, the spot where Lyra McKee fell can be geolocated:

Below, the vantage point of the first video (dotted red line) and the second video (dotted blue line). The spot where McKee fell is marked by a black “X”:

The PSNI also released a video compilation captured by CCTV cameras showing parts of the unrest, including some of the shooting. The video shows the moment that the armed man turns the corner and looks down Fanad Drive. Note that the timestamp on the CCTV video appears to show the time in UTC:

 

The Armed Man

The CCTV footage shows what appears to be an armed man turn the corner and look down Fanad Drive. The man quickly ducks back into cover behind the corner. Aside from having his face covered, he is wearing tracksuit bottoms that appear to have a word written on them running down his left leg:

An image of some of the demonstrators published in this article shows a group of four men, at least two of whom are carrying Molotov cocktails. One of the men has tracksuit bottoms with the word “TEAM9” running down his left leg (note: for a clearer view of the word, see this picture). The position of that word appears to match the portion of text that is visible on the armed man’s left leg in the CCTV footage above:

Close-up shot of the individual with the TEAM9 tracksuit bottoms. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

By resizing and rotating the PA Wire image of the man in the TEAM9 tracksuit bottoms and superimposing it over that of the armed man as he appears in the CCTV footage, we can check whether the writing on the tracksuit bottoms matches.

The video below begins with the armed man as he appears in the CCTV video. Then, a resized and rotated image of the man in the TEAM9 tracksuit bottoms from the PA Wire picture is superimposed over the CCTV image. As the two images converge, the fragment of the writing on the armed man’s leg matches the word TEAM9 on the man’s leg, strongly suggesting that the two individuals are the same person. However, because the individuals in the crowd who attacked the police appeared to have acted in a coordinated fashion, including wearing similar clothing to avoid identification, it is possible that two individuals in that crowd might have been wearing the same tracksuit bottoms:

The man with the TEAM9 tracksuit bottoms appears in more images, including some on this PA Images page. His face cover has a Nike logo on it, and he is wearing what appears to be a grey pair of Nike trainers.

In the first video that captured the moment of the shooting, a group of individuals whose faces are covered stand by the wreckage of one of the burned vehicles. They are wearing similar clothing, including what appear to be tracksuit bottoms, some of which have designs or writing running down their legs:

In the second video that captured the moment of the shooting, just seconds after the last bullet has been fired, a masked man enters the frame. He bends down to the ground, likely to pick up shell casings. As he does, the man appears to cover his hand with his sleeves, possibly out of a concern of leaving fingerprints on the casing, or that it might be too hot to touch. As the man leaves the frame, his left leg is exposed to the camera, and he appears to have a logo or writing running down his left leg. Because the shooter walked out of frame after after firing the last shot, and because the quality of the video does not allow for a clear view of the individual’s left leg, it is not possible to conclusively determine that the individual below is the shooter:

The video evidence suggests that the shooter acted as part of a group of individuals who dressed similarly, likely in an attempt to make difficult attempts to recognize any single individual in the group.

An attempt to synchronise the videos can be seen below:

Junior McDaid House

At 9:05 AM on April 19, a message was posted to a Facebook group called “Junior McDaid House”. In the post, the group posted a message extending its sympathies to the family and loved ones of Lyra McKee, and announced that it was cancelling an annual Easter Commemoration that was scheduled for Monday:

At 9:19 AM, the group posted a second message. In this second message, the group claims that a “Republican Volunteer attempted” to “defend people” from an “incursion” of officers with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (URC). It should be noted that the RUC was superseded by the PSNI in 2001 and no longer exists. The statement claims that during this attempt, Lyra McKee was “killed accidentally”:

The post linked to a page that, as of the writing of this article, was down. The page was archived at 10:15:27 UTC. A screenshot of that archive as it appeared then follows below:

Saoradh’s Twitter account also posted a link to the statement:

Saoradh is an unregistered dissident republican political party in Northern Ireland and Ireland. The Chief Constable of the PSNI stated in an interview with the BBC that “Saoradh is the political voice of the New IRA. I think there is significant overlap between the leadership of both the New IRA and Saoradh“. However, Saoradh has consistently denied being the political wing of the New IRA.

 

Conclusion

McKee’s killing has caused consternation both in Northern Ireland and abroad. She is the first journalist to be killed in the United Kingdom since 2001.

Mogens Blicher, the president of the European Federation of Journalists, called McKee “a very dedicated journalist” and stressed her commitment to covering the conflict in Northern Ireland.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) issued a statement through its General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, who said of McKee:

“A young, vibrant life has been destroyed in a senseless act of violence. Our thoughts are with her partner, family and many friends and colleagues. A bright light has been quenched and that plunges all of us into darkness. Her death is a major loss to journalism”.

A GoFundMe page has been set up in memory of Lyra McKee, with all proceeds going to her family.

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13 Comments

  1. Colin Gray

    Im nearly 60 and the people I saw involved in rioting and the shooting despite wearing balaclava I would suggest are relatively young.

    What experience have they of “The Troubles”. I see and hear young folk going on about Butchers Aprons, Brits, Crown Forces and RUC. Why is this hatred still ingrained in young folk. (on both sides I would add.)

    How does this island move on. To see and hear young children cheer and clap terrorists opening fire on police officers is a tragedy in itself.

    Parents, society, politicians, where do we start trying to fix this. Sadly I think it is beyond repair.

    A young lady lost her life to hatred of all things British. Can Ireland and Irish people not get passed this. By the way I’m an Irish Protestant.

    Reply
    • Conor

      They’ve learnt it at the knee – too many of the older generations still talk about the oppression they got from the Brits and this sense of being the underclass has now been inherited by the youth today. Now, with unemployment and poverty, they look to blame the Brits again for the situation in Derry today.

      But they have no idea what actual oppression is. They just need someone to hate. And actually, we’re not being oppressed any more; we’re just forgotten about, protestants and Catholics both, by Westminster – just like the Northern counties in England.

      Reply
  2. STUART TALLACK

    It is a very small point, but using correct words to describe things will avoid misunderstandings. The pieces picked up from the road were not “shell casings” but “cartridge cases.” What comes out of the cartridge case and out of the barrel of a gun is a bullet and the complete assembly is a cartridge. If “shell casing” means anything at all, I suppose it would be what is ejected from an artillery piece.

    Reply
  3. Joseph collins

    Why would you return to the dark days of murder and hatred life is short but acts like this only create more violence and pain put away your guns and anger and don’t let this young woman’s life be in vain. Those who advocate these actions don’t speak for the people of Derry or northern Ireland.

    Reply
  4. AlexG

    Where there are bullets then bombs are sure to follow. I fear the next Belligcat investigation will be of cctv, etc of a larger ‘message’ from these fanatics ‘defending’ more insanity.

    Reply
  5. Cristian Giulietti

    Dear Sir or Madam,

    I am a former Italian journalist and university fellow of Lyra McKee’s.
    Needless to say how devasted I am about her tragic death.
    I have probably read every article and watched every video about that night, and I have really appreciated your great analysis of the events. It really helped me to make sense of what happened.

    Your survey is indeed the reason why I am contacting you today.
    I know I may sound a bit paranoid in asking the following questions, yet I must not be the only person who have the same doubts about that night.

    In your opinion, what are the chances that Lyra was killed by accident?
    Correct me if I am wrong, but according to what I saw and read there were not many shots fired.
    What are the chances that those few shots, among all people, would reach just the person who was working on a book about children disappeared during the troubles?
    And that she would be hit in the head, which is a well-known hard target?
    Could there have been another shooter, someone from a different vantage point who was able to aim more precisely?

    Again, I am aware of the unlikeliness of this scenario and that it was probably a combination of fatality and coincidence; yet, in your opinion, how really unlikely it may be?

    I take this opportunity to extend my congratulations for the high quality investigations you carry out and your tireless work.

    Also, thanks in advance for your kind attention and for any response you can provide.

    Best regards.

    Reply
  6. European

    As excepted, Bellingcat supports the official UK/US propaganda. Bellingcat is nowhere near journalism, it’s a pure propaganda outfit.

    Reply
    • George Edson

      @European, Nowhere near journalism, what evidence have you to come to that conclusion? Show the propaganda…………..

      Reply
    • Garth

      You must be a Russian, mad at Bellingcat for exposing the GRU agents that tried to poison the Skripals and left behind traces of Novichok that eventually killed a British woman.

      Reply
  7. John Devine

    Seen from the CCTV footage that the shooter’s accomplices picked up 3 items from the ground roughly 2 feet and just to the left from the shooter’s position but heard 4 gunshots.
    I could be wrong but the 4 gunshots could have been small explosions from the burning car.
    That said, 95% of any handguns I’ve ever seen, eject the spent casings out from the right hand side of the gun’s slide (with the exception of a few ‘left handed’ pistols) and the casing usually lands either at the feet or in between
    a good foot or two away to the right.
    Never seen a pistol with a normal right-sided ejection port, spit it’s casings to a position over to the handler’s left nevermind behind him and to the left.

    If the gun used does have a left-sided ejection port, the shooter was standing beside railings which the casings could have passed through and rested in the ground behind.
    Just wondering if the forensics checked the tyre treads of the Pangolin that drove over the spot where the shooter was standing and potentialy where some casings could have landed? https://youtu.be/BAfF7o2jgn4?t=534
    The Pangolin drives directly over the spot where casings could have landed, including the space between the shooter’s position and the burning car (a place where casings from a traditional right-ported pistol would send casings.)
    None of the shooter’s accomplices approach that position to recover casings as it was too exposed to the Police view.

    Almost definate clutching at straws but, personally, I found it strange since they pick up casings from an unusual place. It screams left-handed weapon but wielded by a right-handed shooter?
    I suppose only gun nuts would understand what I mean.
    I have every faith in the PSNI but I suppose any gun nut watching this would surmise the same?
    @PSNI Worth a second look?

    Reply

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