The Police Ombudsman is to investigate reports that a PSNI unit stood by and watched as Catholic father-of-four Kevin McDaid was beaten to death on Sunday evening.
Mr McDaid was set upon by a loyalist mob near his home in Coleraine on Sunday after a gang of fifty men shouting unionist paramilitary slogans converged on the Catholic area of the town.
They entered one nationalist estate and started to take down Irish tricolours before attacking residents.
One eyewitness said Mr McDaid had just come out of his house to check up on his sons when he was set upon.
“He was about 10 yards from me and 10 to 15 [assailants] beat him to the floor. Someone said he was hit with some sort of bat. I saw his wife running towards him and a couple of other women crowding around him.
“He got up and clung on to his son. He was helping him up the road and they had got him as far as his house but he collapsed.
“It looked to me that he was taking a seizure. All of a sudden he stopped breathing and his lips turned blue.”
Another local Catholic man, Damian Fleming, was attacked by the same mob. He is currently in hospital where he is in serious condition.
Mr McDaid’s wife, Evelyn, said her husband’s death was the the work of the unionist paramilitary UDA.
Mrs McDaid was herself badly beaten as she attempted to defend her husband. She said the gang shouted “We’re from the UDA” as they carried out the fatal attack.
Lcal SDLP assembly member John Dallat said it was a UDA “lynch mob” who murdered Mr McDaid, and that the organisation still held Coleraine “in a stranglehold”.
However, both Mrs McDaid and Mr Dallat’s allegations were challenged by the PSNI.
Assistant PSNI Chief Alistair Finlay said there was “no evidence this was anything other than a maverick group of yobs”.
His claim was seen as an attempt to quell nationalist outrage, which was also been fuelled by the reported failure of the PSNI to intervene as the fatal attack took place. The incident is being widely compared to the murder of Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997, currently the subject of a public inquiry.
Mr McDaid’s son Ryan said the PSNI stood by and did nothing during the attack.
“The police sat and watched as Dad died, they never moved,” he said.
“There were four police officers in a car and they sat and watched from Pates Lane. They never moved, never came, never helped.
“Before I rang the police on my mobile I was shouting at them [the police in the waiting patrol car]. They didn’t want to know, they were 100 yards away. They saw the whole thing and did nothing.
“He died in my arms, dad was staggering up the road, he had gone out to help Damien. Damien was getting beaten and I rang the police on my mobile. Four or five times I rang 999. They said they were coming.
“When dad staggered up and he fell I was trying to bring him around again and I rang the ambulance on my mobile as he was in my arms. Police arrived in a van and ran up and gave Dad CPR but it was too little too late.”
Sinn Féin Stormont junior Minister Gerry Kelly condemned those responsible for the murder. He urged anyone with information to bring it forward to the PSNI and called for no retaliation.
Sending hid condolences to the McDaid family, he said:
“Sectarianism has no place in our society and must be challenged and faced down by all political and community leaders.
“Society demands a united approach to face those people down who are determined to drag us back to darker days, they cannot be allowed to succeed and that is why the Assembly must stand shoulder to shoulder in telling sectarian thugs like those responsible for the murder of Kevin McDaid, that they have no place in our communities.”