Republican News · Thursday 05 August 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Local heroes capture gunman

Loyalist gunman Andrew Coulter after his capture and arrest

A loyalist gunman who was overpowered and disarmed by Portadown nationalists was intent on ``mass, indiscriminate murder'', An Phoblacht has been told.

On Saturday evening, 31 July, Andrew Coulter, a loyalist from Armagh Road in the town, was spotted by local people on Craigwell Road brandishing an AK-47 assault rifle. He was also armed with a handgun.

One man bravely took on Coulter with a brush. Others ran to his aid and grappled with the loyalist, wrestling him to the ground.

During the incident, a shot was fired.

Local residents believe that the loyalist was intent in killing the first person he saw and say that only the prompt action of local people saved lives. Despite this, the potentially catastrophic incident received only cursory treatment in the media.

Craigwell Avenue is a main link road that runs between the loyalist Corcrain Road and the nationalist Obins Street and until two weeks ago had a 24-hour RUC presence. That presence was removed when the security ring put up around the Garvaghy Road for this year's Drumcree parade was lifted.

The Corcrain Road/Craigwell Avenue junction was the scene of much loyalist rioting during the Orange Order protests against the decision to ban them from marching the Garvaghy Road, and it was there that RUC officer Frankie O'Reilly was fatally wounded last year.

On Tuesday, 3 August, Coulter appeared in Lisburn Magistrates Court charged with the attempted murder of George McCoo in Craigwell Avenue in Portadown on 31 July.

He was also charged with possession of an assault rifle and magazine and also a handgun and five rounds of ammunition.

When both charges were put to Coulter, he replied ``not guilty''. He has been remanded into custody until 25 August.

The attempted murder comes in light of comments made by Portadown District spokesperson David Jones, who warned that patience among their supporters was ``wearing thin'' over the Drumcree deadlock.

Sinn Féin Assembly Member Dara O Hagan said of the attack: ``Obviously people are very very frightened and very tense.''

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