Twelve people were being questioned tonight about the loyalist mob murder of a Catholic community worker as it was revealed he had been working with police to calm community tensions before he died.
Kevin McDaid, a 49-year-old father of four, was beaten to death yards from his home in Coleraine, Co Derry on Sunday night.
The cross-community worker was targeted by a gang of up to 40 men who entered a mainly Catholic housing estate after Rangers beat rivals Celtic to the Scottish Premier League title.
Three people, including a 15-year-old boy, were detained in raids in Coleraine today and were being questioned about the murder at the Serious Crime Suite in Antrim along with nine arrested on Monday.
A second man, Damien Fleming, 46, is fighting for his life in hospital after being assaulted during the same disturbances.
The mob even turned on the dead man’s Protestant widow, Evelyn, when she tried to save him. After a beating she was left with two black eyes and covered in cuts and bruises.
While Mrs McDaid said she believed the murder was the work of the loyalist Ulster Defence Association, a police chief said there was no suggestion the murder was orchestrated by paramilitaries.
Assistant Chief Constable Alastair Finlay said: “There is no evidence this was anything other than a maverick group of yobs. This group made their way down from a pub intent on violence.”
He added: “There is no suggestion it was in any way organised by any particular group. This was a group of about 15 males who went on a rampage with devastating consequences.”
Indeed the political representatives of the UDA – the Ulster Political Research Group – issued a statement in which they condemned the murder and those who would seek to cause community tensions.
They added: “There can be no justification for taking of life; there can be no reason or excuse.”
Mr Finlay said there were tensions in the wake of Rangers sealing the title and people in the Catholic area believed there was to be some sort of parade and “exhibitions of triumphalism” by the loyalist community.
In response there was a building of barricades to keep them out and a raising of flags.
“We achieved, as we understood, a settlement where the barricades were removed, indeed Kevin was part of the removal.
“He was speaking to the community police sergeant only 45 minutes before his death,” said Mr Finlay.
Events developed quickly and a maverick group of people moved into the area in response to the flags being put up and, police understood, tried to take them down, he said.
“That led to the group disturbance where Kevin lost his life.”
A shrine of Celtic football shirts, scarves and flowers bearing messages of sorrow built up at the scene of the murder.
Pinned to a bouquet of carnations was a note from Mrs McDaid. It said: “Kevin. Loving husband and loving father and No 1 Dad. I will always miss you. Your loving wife Evelyn.”
Mrs McDaid said her husband would not want to see any more violence.
“He wouldn’t want retaliation for it,” she said.
“He wouldn’t want my sons to get hurt, he wouldn’t want this. He was trying to keep the peace, he didn’t want all this – the nonsense that’s been going on here for years and years. He wanted peace.”
She said the mob also beat up a pregnant woman during the attack.
Mr McDaid, a former plasterer, had three sons and a foster son. His widow said the family’s life had been shattered.
Mrs McDaid said the attackers claimed they were from the UDA as they beat her and her husband.
“UDA , they called themselves the UDA. I went across to help him and they beat me while they beat him. And then my neighbour had to step in to save me and she was pregnant and they beat her too and she shouted ’I’m pregnant’ and they didn’t care.”
She added: “It was all to do with religion, and I’m not even a Catholic. I am a Protestant, it’s a mixed marriage, but they just seem to hate us so much.”
The North’s First Minister Peter Robinson led political condemnation at Stormont.
“The brutal murder at the weekend in Coleraine of Kevin McDaid is a blight on society in Northern Ireland,” said Mr Robinson.
“At this time the wider McDaid family are in our thoughts and our prayers.
“Whilst we condemn the actions of those who perpetrated this crime we must also redouble our efforts to ensure that such events do not happen again.
“It is critical that those who are responsible for this attack are brought to justice and anyone with any information should come forward to the police.”
The DUP leader added: “Despite the considerable progress that has been made in recent years events such as this demonstrate just how far we still have to travel in seeking to eradicate sectarianism from our society.
“It is therefore essential that politics is seen to work and the Executive is proactive in dealing with the underlying issues in society.”
Scheduled business in the Assembly chamber was postponed for the day to allow members an opportunity to pass on condolences to the McDaid family.
Sinn Féin junior minister Gerry Kelly said he believed he spoke for MLAs on all sides of the house in condemning the brutal murder.
“I think this is a time for a unified voice from the chamber to let anyone and everyone who cares to listen know that sectarian attacks are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said.