Police release CCTV of car used by New IRA gunmen who mowed down policeman John Caldwell in front of his young son

27 February 2023, 17:02

John Caldwell was gunned down on Wednesday night
John Caldwell was gunned down on Wednesday night. Picture: PSNI

By Kit Heren

Police have put out footage of a car used by gunman who attacked a policeman in Northern Ireland while he was coaching children's football last week.

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Republican group the New IRA has claimed responsibility for the attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell on Wednesday night.

DCI Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition following the attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone. His young son is thought to have witnessed the attack.

Six people have been arrested, with the youngest 22 and the oldest 71.

Police in Northern Ireland release CCTV of car used by gunmen in the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell

Now officers have released CCTV footage of a car they say was used by the attackers. Police said the blue Ford Fiesta, with the registration number MGZ 6242 was fitted with false plates, FRZ 8414 ahead of the attack. It had been bought two weeks ahead of the shooting.

DCI Caldwell, 48, was putting footballs back into his car after leading a football training session with his son when the gunmen shot him.

The children scattered as the shots rang out, with at least two other vehicles being struck by bullets.

Detective Chief Superintendent Eamonn Corrigan said: “Our CCTV footage shows the car leaving the sports complex and turning left onto the Killyclogher Road immediately after the shooting. We then know it travelled past Glendale Service Station to the Racolpa Road where they abandoned the car and set it on fire.

The car driven by the gunmen
The car driven by the gunmen. Picture: PSNI

“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.  Did you see anyone or any vehicles on the road?  Did you observe any vehicles driving away from the area at speed?"

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell. Picture: Alamy

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said on Saturday that they had arrested a man, 71, under the Terrorism Act.

Five other men - aged 22, 38, 43, 45 and 47 - also arrested in connection with the attempted murder remain in custody.

A reward worth up to £20,000 is also being offered by the independent charity Crimestoppers to anyone who has key information about those responsible.

On Sunday night, a typed message appeared on a wall in Londonderry, 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.

New IRA ‘primary focus’ in probe into shooting of senior police officer

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. T O'Neill."

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."

Mr Corrigan said it is believed that "a number of people" were involved in the attack.

"Quite clearly, this attack was carefully planned and was planned in advance," he said.

"A vehicle has been obtained weeks ahead of the attack on John, it travelled down the night before on false plates.

"I believe that a number of people were involved in the plan to attack and kill John, they haven't been successful but there have been a number of people involved in this. It has been carefully planned, it carries all the signs of a terrorist attack that we've seen in the past."

He added: "The PSNI is working closely with our officers to ensure their welfare and wellbeing. We're also making officers more aware of personal security factors. The fact is, the threat level at the moment is severe, an attack is likely - we have seen that this week."

On Saturday, people gathered in the village of Beragh and in nearby Omagh to show their solidarity with Mr Caldwell.

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