Police have released footage of a car suspected to have been used by gunmen who shot Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell at a sports complex in Omagh last week.
The high-profile Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer was shot “from close range” at around 8pm last Wednesday (22 February) in front of children, including his own son, after coaching a youth football match.
Six people have been arrested in connection with the attack, which police say is under investigation as being terror related. Mr Caldwell is in hospital in a “critical but stable” condition.
On Monday, Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan appealed for help finding those involved in an attack “in front of terrified children and parents”.
Police released footage of a blue Ford Fiesta linked to the shooting, fitted with false plates at the time of the attack, as they issued a direct appeal for information.
Footage from CCTV cameras shows the car leaving the Killyclogher Road sports complex immediately after the shooting, before being abandoned and set on fire on Racolpa Road.
Det Chief Supt Corrigan said: “We have established that the car was purchased in Ballyclare on Wednesday 8 February and was observed travelling towards Belfast on the M2 Motorway that night.
“It was next noted leaving Belfast at around 9.30pm on Tuesday 21 February – the night before the attack on John – and travelled along the M1 Motorway in the direction of Coalisland/Omagh.
“My appeal today is for anyone who knows where this car was kept in Belfast in the preceding two weeks or anyone who knows where it was stored after it travelled to Omagh on the Tuesday night.
“I am also appealing for anyone who observed anything suspicious in the Racolpa Road area on Wednesday evening.”
He said a reward of “up to £20,000” is available via Crimestoppers “for information given directly to Crimestoppers that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for John’s attempted murder.”
Mr Corrigan said that police “continue to treat this as terrorist-related and our primary line of enquiry is it has been carried out by the New IRA” after a letter on Monday appeared to claim the shooting for the group.
He added: “I continue to ask for the public’s help to bring those responsible for this senseless attack to justice.”
On Sunday night, a typed message appeared on a wall in Derry, purportedly from the New IRA and claiming responsibility for Mr Caldwell’s attempted murder.
It was signed by “T O’Neill” – a name previously used by the dissident terrorist group.
It said: “The Irish Republican Army claim responsibility for the military operation targeting senior Crown Force member John Caldwell.
“An active service unit of the IRA were in position to target the enemy within our chosen kill zone with other armed volunteers giving cover.
“All volunteers returned safely to base.
“Irish Republican Army intelligence are now in possession of security information regarding the out of bounds movement of Crown Force personnel.
“We would say this, you still have to try and live a normal life day-to-day, one of these days the IRA will be waiting.”
On Monday, Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said: “Police are aware of the claim of responsibility.
“We are currently reviewing its contents as part of the overall investigation.
“On Friday, we confirmed that we were treating the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell as terrorist-related and our primary line of enquiry was the New IRA.”
On Saturday, people gathered in the village of Beragh and in nearby Omagh to show their solidarity with Mr Caldwell.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, thanked the people of Omagh and the political parties for their support.
Chairman Liam Kelly said the federation was heartened to see cross-party condemnation of the attack, as crowds turned out in solidarity with Mr Caldwell in Omagh and Beragh on Saturday.
“We saw this entire community and the five political parties speaking with one voice in their condemnation of the terrorists who were responsible for the barbaric gun attack,” he said.
“It was heartening to witness this level of support for John and his family and for the work that police officers do on behalf of our entire community.
“I appreciate the many expressions of support we received. It is heartening and reassuring to know that the people we serve and all the political parties view the actions of these terrorists with abhorrence and disgust.
“These cowards are bereft of any trace of humanity. They think that by targeting our officers they are advancing their warped agenda when the reality is they are achieving nothing.
“Collectively, we have to do all we can to rid ourselves of these dangerous and delusional gangs of thugs.
“The public outpouring of support, such as what happened in Omagh at the weekend, is heartening and positive. No cause, ideology or campaign justifies any callous acts of brutality.
“What we have to do now is encourage as many people as possible to help and support the detectives to track down the attackers and bring them before the courts.
“That would be the best possible way of expressing thanks to John for his steadfastness and commitment to rid our civic society of the ‘cancer’ of dissident terrorism and gangsterism.”