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11 arrested in probe into attempted murder of senior police detective

11 arrested in probe into attempted murder of senior police detective

Eleven people have been arrested by police investigating the attempted murder of a senior detective in Northern Ireland.

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot multiple times at a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in February in an attack linked to dissident republicans.

Police believe the so-called New IRA carried out the attack, with one line of inquiry examining whether the republican extremists were assisted by members of a criminal gang.

Nine men and two women, aged between 21 and 72, were arrested on Friday morning under the Terrorism Act in Omagh and Coalisland in Co Tyrone.

The PSNI said it had carried out a major search and arrest operation on Friday.

The suspects have been taken to the PSNI’s serious crime suite at Musgrave police station in Belfast for questioning.

At a press conference in Belfast, PSNI Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan said a total of 28 arrests had been made to date in the investigation, comprising 21 individuals.

He said seven of the 11 people detained on Friday had been previously arrested as part of the probe into Mr Caldwell’s attempted murder.

Mr Corrigan also made a specific appeal for information about a number of vehicles involved in the attack – a Mercedes and two Ford Fiestas.

He said the arrests represented a “significant” step in the investigation.

Mr Caldwell was seriously injured after he was shot several times at the sports centre after coaching a youth football team.

His son had been with him as he loaded footballs into the boot of his car when the gunmen approached.

Mr Corrigan said: “As John was packing up after coaching a youth football team he was shot multiple times and, when he fell to the ground, the gunmen continued to fire at him in front of terrified children and parents, and, disturbingly, in front of John’s young son.”

King Charles III visit to Northern Ireland – Day 1
Detective Chief Superintendent John Caldwell attends a garden party at Hillsborough Castle (Brian Lawless/PA)

Earlier this week the senior detective attended a garden party in Co Down with the King and Queen.

The event was the first time Mr Caldwell had appeared in public since the attack.

It is understood that he had a private audience with the King ahead of the event.

Camilla also spent some minutes speaking to Mr Caldwell during the garden party at Hillsborough Castle.

“I am delighted that John is on the road to recovery and was able to attend a garden party this week hosted by the King and Queen,” said Mr Corrigan.

“Now we need to make sure we bring those vile individuals who tried to murder him to justice.”

Mr Corrigan also provided an update on Mr Caldwell.

“John is making a really good, steady recovery compared to where we were the night he was shot, when we in the investigation team feared that he would die and it was treated as a potential murder from the beginning of the investigation,” he said.

Police officer shot in Omagh
Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan at a press conference about the investigation into the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell (David Young/PA)

“So, John is making a good recovery and we were all delighted that he was well enough to attend the party.”

The Crimestoppers charity has offered a reward of £150,000 for information that leads to the conviction of those involved in the attack.

The PSNI released new CCTV and photos of several vehicles – a Mercedes C-Class and two Ford Fiestas – used by the gunmen and their accomplices on the night of the shooting and in the lead-up to it.

Officers believe the black Mercedes Benz C-Class (W204) four-door saloon (2007/8 – 2014) was used as an operational vehicle by the New IRA both before and immediately after the attack to transport the gunmen and others away from the site of a burned-out Ford Fiesta in Racolpa Road, referred to as Fiesta One.

Mr Corrigan appealed for information about who was in the Mercedes, where it was before the shooting and where it went afterwards.

He said it travelled in a convoy with the two blue Ford Fiestas on the Drumnakilly Road headed towards Omagh at 5.43pm on the evening of the shooting.

A new photograph of Fiesta One shows it leaving Barrack Street in Coalisland at 4.55pm on the afternoon of the shooting and travelling to Omagh. It had registration number MGZ 6242 and was fitted with false plates, FRZ 8414, prior to the attack.

Police say the vehicle left the sports complex and turned left on to the Killyclogher Road immediately after the shooting. It then travelled past Glendale service station to the Racolpa Road, where it was abandoned and set on fire. Police believe it travelled into Coalisland at around 10pm on the previous night, February 21.

The new image of Fiesta Two, registration number RLZ 9805, with a missing alloy hubcap shows it at 2pm at Tamnamore Park and Ride on the day of the shooting.

Police appealed for information on where it travelled to from there before being burned out in Ardboe Industrial Estate the following day, Thursday February 23.