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PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan PA
John Caldwell

PSNI restates focus on New IRA in Omagh shooting investigation after reports of loyalist arrests

An Assistant Chief Constable said people should not get “confused” with titles such as loyalism.

LAST UPDATE | 2 Mar 2023

A SENIOR POLICE officer has repeated his belief that the dissident republican New IRA carried out a gun attack on an off-duty detective in Northern Ireland.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan made the remarks to the Policing Board after being questioned over the possibility of loyalist involvement in the attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

DCI Caldwell was shot several times in Omagh last week and is still critically ill in hospital.

Police have made a number of arrests over the past week in connection with the incident. 

A 47-year-old man arrested in connection with the investigation into the attempted murder has been released today following questioning. 

Two men, aged 33 and 57, remain in place custody tonight. 

Sinn Féin board member Gerry Kelly asked McEwan for an update on the investigation, saying it had been a “bit confusing” as there had been reports of arrests among republicans and loyalists.

McEwan responded that “we know there is speculation about the motivation behind the shooting incident because of the community background of some of the people who have been arrested”.

“We are very clear that this is still assessed as being an attack carried out by the New IRA and that is where the primary focus of the investigation is.”

Kelly said it was believed that four of the people who had been arrested were from a loyalist background and asked if there was a loyalist connection to the shooting, to which McEwan replied that people should not get “confused” with titles such as loyalism.

The constable said: “We still assess that this has been an attack carried out by the New IRA who have very explicitly stated that they wish to carry out attacks on police officers and John has been the target on this occasion.”

Chief Constable Simon Byrne thanked board members and the public for their messages of support, which he said had been relayed to the injured officer’s immediate family.

“I’ve been out myself three times to Omagh for various reasons to see first hand what is going on and to see John’s family, and to give them every support,” Byrne said.

“It has been quite tremendous the effort that has gone into the determination to catch the people who did this, both from those investigators who are dealing with the immediate aftermath, the crime scene investigators who help us piece together the evidence bit by bit, and also the determination of colleagues from across the country, many of whom knew John, to do their bit.

We have had messages from all over the world extending people’s thoughts to us and John’s family.

“He remains critically ill in hospital, but he is in good care. We are ensuring that his wife and son have every possible support from the organisation.”

PSNI detectives are continuing to appeal to witnesses or those with information to get in touch by calling 101. 

Detectives are also highlighting a reward of up to £20,000 from Crimestoppers, who are a charity and independent of the police. The reward is offered for information given directly to Crimestoppers that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for John’s attempted murder. Contact the charity anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin

Press Association