Rioting before Lyra McKee death was to ‘put on a show for MTV camera crew’

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Three men are accused of her murder

By Jonathan McCambridge (PA)

Rioting in Londonderry on the night journalist Lyra McKee was murdered was orchestrated to “put on a show” for an MTV camera crew, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

A prosecution barrister told the murder trial that masked men who threw petrol bombs at police were “entirely at ease” with being filmed, suggesting their presence had been authorised by those behind the violence.

Ms McKee, 29, died after being struck in the head by a bullet as she stood close to police vehicles while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Londonderry on the night of April 18 2019.

The New IRA claimed responsibility for the author’s murder.

Peter Cavanagh, 35, of Mary Street, Derry; Jordan Gareth Devine, 23, of Bishop Street, Derry; and Paul McIntyre, 56, of Kells Walk, Derry, are on trial charged with her murder.

Seven other men are on trial on a number of charges, including rioting and throwing petrol bombs.

They are: Joseph Patrick Barr, 36, of Sandringham Drive, Derry; Jude Forest Coffey, 26, of Gartan Square, Derry; William Patrick Elliott, 57, of Ballymagowan Gardens, Derry; Joseph Anthony Campbell, 23, of Gosheden Cottages, Derry; Patrick Anthony Gallagher, 32, of John Field Place, Derry; Christopher Joseph Gillen, 43, of Balbane Pass, Derry; and Kieran George McCool, 55, of Ballymagowan Gardens, Derry.

The non-jury trial has previously heard that TV presenter Reggie Yates and an MTV crew were in Derry filming a documentary on republicans opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process on the day of the shooting.

They were filming in the period leading up to traditional republican commemorations in the city to mark the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule in Dublin.

Last week, the court was played MTV footage of masked men attacking police Land Rovers with petrol bombs in the hours before Ms McKee was shot.

On Tuesday morning, prosecuting barrister David McDowell turned his attention to the defendants that were not masked during the violence.

He told the court that Coffey and Gallagher had accompanied the MTV camera crew to the Creggan area of Derry to observe the disorder.

The barrister said: “Oddly, anyone wearing a mask was entirely at ease with the presence to a television camera recording precisely what they were doing.

“Not one of the masked men took exception to its presence.

“Indeed they were prepared to engage in an interview with Reggie Yates and provide him with a petrol bomb to inspect.

“Yates had no qualms in doing so.”

He said this suggested the masked men knew in advance of the plans to film or that the presence of Coffey and Gallagher had endorsed the filming.

Mr McDowell added: “The reaction of the masked men would have been quite different had an unauthorised camera crew attended the rioting, unannounced.”

The barrister said what followed was the “remarkable sight” of masked petrol bombers being filmed at close quarters as they attacked police.

He continued: “It is, the prosecution submit, the natural conclusion that the masked petrol bombers waited for Mellon (Patrick Anthony Gallagher) and McCrory (Jude Forest Coffey) to bring the film crew to the scene before walking up with them to launch the first attack because the purpose of the exercise was to put on a show for the camera.”

Mr McDowell said: “Putting it succinctly, they brought the film crew to the scene where their masked colleagues waited for them to begin the petrol bombing.

“There, they engaged with them as they prepared for the attack before they related their intention to begin the attack, enabling the camera to follow them and capture the action.”

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