Murdered Lyra McKee’s girlfriend pays tribute to the journalist who was shot dead

Murdered Lyra McKee’s girlfriend pays tribute to the journalist who was shot dead

Tributes have been made to a young journalist who was killed last night in Londonderry as she reported on riots happening in the Creggan area. 

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Tributes have been made to a young journalist who was killed last night in Londonderry as she reported on riots happening in the Creggan area. 

Police in Northern Ireland have now released footage of Lyra McKee in the crowd, which also shows the masked gunman at a nearby building. 

Sara Canning paid tribute to her 29-year-old partner today in front of hundreds of people attending a vigil in her memory and described her killing as a ‘senseless murder’.

Ms McKee was hit by a stray bullet after a masked gunman opened fire towards a crowd of police officers and bystanders at around 11pm, as republican dissidents rioted in the city’s Creggan estate. 

Speaking at the vigil, Ms Canning said: ‘It has left so many friends without their confidante. Victims and LGBTQI community are left without a tireless advocate and activist and it has left me without the love of my life, the woman I was planning to grow old with are all passed in the loss of Lyra.

Ms McKee, who had extensively covered the legacy of the Troubles, in a new picture released by her family today

Ms McKee, who had extensively covered the legacy of the Troubles, in a new picture released by her family today

Ms McKee, who had extensively covered the legacy of the Troubles, in a new picture released by her family today 

Tributes were left on the scene for Lyra which one which read: 'Heartbroken you lost your life here in Derry. So very sorry RIP Lyra - Not In Our Name

Tributes were left on the scene for Lyra which one which read: 'Heartbroken you lost your life here in Derry. So very sorry RIP Lyra - Not In Our Name

Tributes were left on the scene for Lyra which one which read: ‘Heartbroken you lost your life here in Derry. So very sorry RIP Lyra – Not In Our Name

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured right, with girlfriend Sara Canning), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured right, with girlfriend Sara Canning), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

Dissident republicans have been blamed by police for the murder of journalist Lyra McKee (pictured right, with girlfriend Sara Canning), who was shot dead while covering a riot in Londonderry last night

A police officer was pictured paying her respects at a memorial which had been created to honour Lyra's life

A police officer was pictured paying her respects at a memorial which had been created to honour Lyra's life

A police officer was pictured paying her respects at a memorial which had been created to honour Lyra’s life

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee

People signing a book of condolence after a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee

‘Our hopes and dreams and all of her amazing potential was snuffed out by this single barbaric act.

‘This cannot stand, Lyra’s death must not be in vain because her life was a shining light in everyone else’s life and her legacy will live on and the life that she has left behind.’

This evening the latest winner of the Man Booker prize paid a tearful tribute to a murdered Belfast journalist.

Milkman author Anna Burns was among hundreds who turned out at Belfast City Hall for a vigil to Lyra McKee and stood for a minute’s silence, which was followed with applause.

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall which was packed out for the vigil to honour the life of Lyra

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall which was packed out for the vigil to honour the life of Lyra

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall which was packed out for the vigil to honour the life of Lyra

A woman wears a rainbow flag while she looks towards a picture of Lyra which has been placed on the gates of the Belfast City Hall

A woman wears a rainbow flag while she looks towards a picture of Lyra which has been placed on the gates of the Belfast City Hall

A woman wears a rainbow flag while she looks towards a picture of Lyra which has been placed on the gates of the Belfast City Hall 

The books of condolence for Ms McKee was brought to the front steps of the building after the doors were officially closed for the night to allow those waiting in a long queue to sign it.

A smiling photograph of the 29-year-old journalist gazed across the rainbow flag-draped table which held two condolence books for well wishers to sign as well as a small posy of forget-me-nots.

Those attending were asked to talk to each other in memory of Ms McKee who they were reminded, loved conversations.

John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Coalition read out Ms McKee’s ‘Letter To My 14-year-old Self’, in which she had written evocatively about facing challenging times at school and the moment she came out as gay to her mother, and relief when her mother embraced her.

Next three friends of Ms McKee’s, who had been due to meet her for dinner that evening, shared their memories of their friend.

A table with candles which spelled out 'Love' and a vase of tulips and other flowers where people gathered to sign the condolence book

A table with candles which spelled out 'Love' and a vase of tulips and other flowers where people gathered to sign the condolence book

A table with candles which spelled out ‘Love’ and a vase of tulips and other flowers where people gathered to sign the condolence book

John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project reads a letter written by Lyra McKee when she was aged 24 entitled 'Letter to me 14-year-old self

John O'Doherty of the Rainbow Project reads a letter written by Lyra McKee when she was aged 24 entitled 'Letter to me 14-year-old self

John O’Doherty of the Rainbow Project reads a letter written by Lyra McKee when she was aged 24 entitled ‘Letter to me 14-year-old self

People looked tearful as they held candles at a vigil which was being held this evening, many struggled to hold back the tears at the emotional event

People looked tearful as they held candles at a vigil which was being held this evening, many struggled to hold back the tears at the emotional event

People looked tearful as they held candles at a vigil which was being held this evening, many struggled to hold back the tears at the emotional event

Beautiful daffodils were left in bunches near the scene of the shooting along with a framed photo of Lyra (centre)

Beautiful daffodils were left in bunches near the scene of the shooting along with a framed photo of Lyra (centre)

Beautiful daffodils were left in bunches near the scene of the shooting along with a framed photo of Lyra (centre)

Michele Devlin, Anna Burns and Alison Miller supported each other as they tearfully addressed the vigil.

Ms Burns described Ms McKee as a ‘dear, dear friend’ that she had met through their mutual publisher Faber and Faber.

‘It’s absolutely wonderful that you are all here for Lyra,’ she told the crowd, many of whom held candles.

‘She was just so helpful and generous, her wee heart was always open.’

Speaking about the shock of Ms McKee’s death, close friend Matthew Hughes told MailOnline: ‘The loss her friends feel is unquantifiable. Unfathomable. She is utterly irreplaceable.’

Paying tribute to his friend, he added: ‘It was just after midnight, my wife got a call from Lyra’s partner. It was probably the one of the worst phone calls I’ve ever overheard in my life.

A memorial including flowers candles and trinkets was laid including a plaque which read: 'Rest in peace Lyra MC Kee Not In Our Name - The People Of Derry'

A memorial including flowers candles and trinkets was laid including a plaque which read: 'Rest in peace Lyra MC Kee Not In Our Name - The People Of Derry'

A memorial including flowers candles and trinkets was laid including a plaque which read: ‘Rest in peace Lyra MC Kee Not In Our Name – The People Of Derry’

Ms McKee's devastated partner Sara Canning, centre, today paid tribute to her in front of hundreds of people at a vigil near the scene of the shooting, and said her partner's 'amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act'

Ms McKee's devastated partner Sara Canning, centre, today paid tribute to her in front of hundreds of people at a vigil near the scene of the shooting, and said her partner's 'amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act'

Ms McKee’s devastated partner Sara Canning, centre, today paid tribute to her in front of hundreds of people at a vigil near the scene of the shooting, and said her partner’s ‘amazing potential was snuffed out by a single barbaric act’

‘I heard the word ‘shot’, and that she was dead. Lyra was one of my best friends, she was a groomswoman at my wedding; she helped me tie my tie before the wedding. We’d traveled abroad together; we were very, very close.’

Mr Hughes said he had known Ms McKee for five years and added: ‘Lyra was such a brilliant, kind, compassionate person, and so unbelievably good; as a journalist, as a storyteller, as a person. 

‘If she saw a homeless person on the street she would go and buy them a cup of tea and a sandwich. She was the kindest, brightest, most determined person. 

‘She was a great investigative reporter, and she was at this inflection point in her career – she was going to go to the next level, she was so bright and so accomplished.’

Lyra McKee, 29, (shown at the wedding of close friend Matthew Hughes)

Lyra McKee, 29, (shown at the wedding of close friend Matthew Hughes)

Lyra McKee, 29, is believed to have been hit by a stray bullet after a gunman opened fire indiscriminately at around 11pm

Lyra McKee, 29, is believed to have been hit by a stray bullet after a gunman opened fire indiscriminately at around 11pm

Lyra McKee, 29, (shown left,at the wedding of close friend Matthew Hughes) is believed to have been hit by a stray bullet after a gunman opened fire indiscriminately at around 11pm

Ms Canning, pictured left alongside Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, right, added Lyra was a 'shining light'

Ms Canning, pictured left alongside Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, right, added Lyra was a 'shining light'

Ms Canning, pictured left alongside Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, right, added Lyra was a ‘shining light’

In a heartbreaking Tweet, Ms McKee spoke of 'falling in love with Derry' and 'a woman who hails from it', before tragically adding: 'Here's to good times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets once and for all'

In a heartbreaking Tweet, Ms McKee spoke of 'falling in love with Derry' and 'a woman who hails from it', before tragically adding: 'Here's to good times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets once and for all'

Ms McKee

Ms McKee

In a heartbreaking Tweet, Ms McKee spoke of ‘falling in love with Derry’ and ‘a woman who hails from it’, before tragically adding: ‘Here’s to good times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets once and for all’

Moments before her death, Ms McKee had posted an image from the scene of the riots on Twitter showing smoke rising into the air above emergency service vehicles, along with the caption: 'Derry tonight. Absolute madness'

Moments before her death, Ms McKee had posted an image from the scene of the riots on Twitter showing smoke rising into the air above emergency service vehicles, along with the caption: 'Derry tonight. Absolute madness'

Moments before her death, Ms McKee had posted an image from the scene of the riots on Twitter showing smoke rising into the air above emergency service vehicles, along with the caption: ‘Derry tonight. Absolute madness’

Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA in 1984, said Ms McKee was a ‘kind, gentle, witty and stubborn soul’.

‘I have just heard, that my lovely friend Lyra was murdered tonight in Derry. I just can’t believe, that this witty, clever human being has been taken… Feel sick.’ 

The tragic journalists killed amid unrest in Northern Ireland 

Martin O’Hagan had been the only journalist killed on Northern Irish soil before the death of Lyra McKee.

He was assassinated by the Loyalist Volunteer Force as he walked home from the pub with his wife in 2001.

O’Hagan had been an investigative journalist for the Sunday World, and was well-known for his stories exposing the seedy activities of Ulster loyalists.

Before his time as a journalist, he was a member of the Official IRA, and ordered an attack of a police patrol in 1972 in which he gunned down and killed Constable George Chambers. 

On September 28, 2001, Martin and his wife Marie were walking home from Fa’ Joe’s pub in his hometown of Lurgan in Northern Ireland when a car pulled up slowly alongside them.

As the occupants opened fire from a window, O’Hagan pushed his wife into a bush as he was struck several times by bullets.

As he lay wounded on the pavement, he asked his wife to call an ambulance, but by the time she returned from making the call he had died.

English journalist Ross McWhirter, co-founder of the Guinness World Book of Records, was murdered by IRA assassins outside his London home in 1975.

He came a target of paramilitary republicans after offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to convictions in high-profile bombings carried out by the IRA during the Troubles. He also advocated for restrictions on the freedom of Irish people during the unrest.

Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty shot him in the head and chest outside his home with a Magnum revolver. They were convicted for the crime but then released under the Good Friday Agreement.

Fellow journalist Peter McGuire said Ms McKee was a ‘gifted writer, a kind person and SO generous with her time and knowledge’. 

‘So young – horrific & heartbreaking news from Derry tonight,’ he tweeted.

Seamus Dooley, Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, wrote: ‘Shocked by news that woman shot dead in Derry last night has been named locally as @NUJofficial Lyra McKee.

‘We are shocked by killing of a journalist of courage, style and integrity. Sympathy to her partner, family and many friends.’

Lilly Dancyger, a New York-based editor at Narratively, said Ms McKee was ‘dedicated to covering the lasting trauma & violence of the Troubles’.

‘Devastating to hear she was killed tonight by that same violence,’ she tweeted.

Ms Dancyger shared an article written by Ms McKee about the families of Troubles victims.

‘I was Lyra’s editor on this story, and it was an honour. Sharing her work now is all I can think to do,’ she said.

Michelle Stanistreet, National Union of Journalists (NUJ) general secretary, said Ms McKee was one of the most promising journalists in Northern Ireland.

She said: ‘A young, vibrant life has been destroyed in a senseless act of violence. A bright light has been quenched and that plunges all of us in to darkness.’

Writer Brooke Magnanti, whose blogs were made into TV hit Secret Diary Of A Call Girl, said she was ‘stunned’ by the news.

She tweeted: ‘I only knew her from online and a phone conversations after we were introduced by @GlasgaeLauraLee.

‘She struck me as a thoughtful journalist unafraid to challenge her own beliefs. Rare and precious. Deepest condolences to family and friends.’    

Police revealed today the New IRA was ‘most likely’ behind the killing, and that Ms McKee was a ‘completely innocent bystander’ who was struck accidentally as the gunman aimed towards uniformed officers. 

Irish and British politicians widely condemned the murder today, with the city mayor John Boyle claiming: ‘It doesn’t matter if you call it Derry of Londonderry; this city is united with one voice… against this heinous murder.’ 

Defiant residents of the city later started the hashtag #NotInMyName on social media in an act of opposition to the violence, while hundreds of people attended a vigil in memory of the Belfast-born journalist near where she died.

Moments before her death, Ms McKee had posted an image from the scene of the riots on Twitter that showed smoke rising into the air above police vehicles, along with the caption: ‘Derry tonight. Absolute madness.’ 

In another heartbreaking Tweet, she spoke of ‘falling in love with Derry’ and ‘a woman who hails from it’, before tragically adding: ‘Here’s to good times ahead and saying goodbye to bombs and bullets once and for all.’   

Ms McKee had covered the legacy of the Troubles extensively, and spoke of being segregated from Protestants while growing up on Belfast’s ‘Murder Mile’, a road notorious for the high number of locals killed by Ulster loyalists.  

Ms McKee was an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer and had extensively covered the Troubles in Northern Ireland, leading to Forbes naming her as one of its 30 under 30 in the media in 2016. 

She first rose to prominence in 2014 after a blog post called ‘Letter to my 14-year-old self’ in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast. 

Police revealed this morning that they believe the attack was carried out by 'violent dissident republicans', calling Ms McKee a 'completely innocent bystander'

Police revealed this morning that they believe the attack was carried out by 'violent dissident republicans', calling Ms McKee a 'completely innocent bystander'

Ms McKee was a promising investigative reporter

Ms McKee was a promising investigative reporter

Police revealed this morning that they believe the attack was carried out by ‘violent dissident republicans’, calling Ms McKee a ‘completely innocent bystander’

Mr Hughes said he had known Ms McKee (pictured)  for five years and understood his friend had been killed by a stray bullet, according to Ms McKee's partner, who was at the scene

Mr Hughes said he had known Ms McKee (pictured)  for five years and understood his friend had been killed by a stray bullet, according to Ms McKee's partner, who was at the scene

Mr Hughes said he had known Ms McKee (pictured)  for five years and understood his friend had been killed by a stray bullet, according to Ms McKee’s partner, who was at the scene

Last year, she released her first novella called Angels With Blue Faces, a non-fiction novella about the murder of a reverend during the Northern Irish conflict, with her second book The Lost Boys scheduled for release in 2020.

In a forward to her first book, she said her share of the sale proceeds would ‘go to Paper Trail, a charity that helps survivors of the conflict – regardless of religion, political belief, or other affiliations’.

She added: ‘It empowers victims by helping them ask questions and obtain answers about what was often the most traumatic experience of their lives.

‘Your money will help Paper Trail continue to do this, as Northern Ireland continues to recover from the devastation left by 30 years of war.’

How Lyra McKee grew up on Belfast’s ‘Murder Mile’ before launching a career as a journalist 

Lyra McKee had extensively covered the legacy of the Troubles, and spoke of being segregated from Protestants while growing up on Belfast’s ‘Murder Mile’, a road notorious for the high number of locals killed by Ulster loyalists.

Ms McKee was an editor for California-based news site Mediagazer and had extensively covered the Troubles in Northern Ireland, leading to Forbes naming her as one of its 30 under 30 in the media in 2016. 

She first rose to prominence in 2014 after a blog post called ‘Letter to my 14-year-old self’ in which she spoke about the struggle of growing up gay in Belfast. 

Last year, she released her first novella called Angels With Blue Faces, a non-fiction novella about the murder of a reverend during the Northern Irish conflict, with her second book The Lost Boys scheduled for release in 2020.

In a forward to her first book, she said her share of the sale proceeds would ‘go to Paper Trail, a charity that helps survivors of the conflict – regardless of religion, political belief, or other affiliations’.

She added: ‘It empowers victims by helping them ask questions and obtain answers about what was often the most traumatic experience of their lives.

‘Your money will help Paper Trail continue to do this, as Northern Ireland continues to recover from the devastation left by 30 years of war.’

In the foreword, she spoke of her country as ‘a beautiful tragedy, strangled by the chains of its past and its present’.

‘It’s a place full of darkness and mysteries,’ she added. ‘It’s also my home.

‘Sometimes, I love it and hate it in equal measure.’

In the foreword, she spoke of her country as ‘a beautiful tragedy, strangled by the chains of its past and its present’.

‘It’s a place full of darkness and mysteries,’ she added. ‘It’s also my home. Sometimes, I love it and hate it in equal measure.’

She had headed to the city’s Creggan district after riots erupted following police raids on a number of homes yesterday.

Several vehicles were hijacked and set alight earlier in the incident before the gunshots were heard.

Prime Minister Theresa May called the death of Ms McKee a ‘shocking and truly senseless’ loss of life in a statement today.

‘My deepest condolences go to her family, friends and colleagues,’ she said. ‘She was a journalist who died doing her job with great courage.’ 

United States House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi also paid tribute to journalist Ms McKee during a visit to Stormont.

A minute’s silence was observed during an event she attended in the Long Gallery in respect of Ms McKee during a speech by Northern Ireland Assembly speaker Robin Newton.

During her speech, Ms Pelosi said: ‘Sadly, Mr Speaker, we join you on the sadness of the tragedy that happened last night, we extend our condolences to the family and your moment of silence at this time, on Good Friday is especially poignant,’ she said.

‘You not only had a moment of silence, you presented a sense of resolve that justice would be done and the memory of that young woman would be a lesson for all of us.’

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the killing in Derry was a ‘senseless loss of life’.

She said: ‘I am shocked and saddened at the tragic news that a young woman has been shot dead by so-called dissidents in the Creggan estate tonight.

‘The murder of this young woman is a human tragedy for her family, but it is also an attack on all the people of this community, an attack on our peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement.

‘I unreservedly condemn those responsible for killing this young woman. We will remain resolute in our opposition to the pointless actions of these people who care nothing for the people of Derry.’

DUP leader Arlene Foster said that news of the death was ‘heartbreaking’ and that it was a ‘senseless act’.

‘Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80 and 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019. No one wants to go back,’ she said.

‘Keep hanging on, kid. It’s worth it. I love you’: Lyra’s poignant letter to her 14-year-old self 

A poignant letter than Ms McKee wrote to her 14-year-old self has been widely shared on Twitter as people pay tribute to her life and career. 

In the letter, published by The Muckraker in August 2014, she told of overcoming homophobia to live a happy and fulfilling life. 

It begins: ‘Kid, It’s going to be okay.

‘I know you’re not feeling that way right now. You’re sitting in school. The other kids are making fun of you. You told the wrong person you had a crush and soon, they all knew your secret. It’s horrible. They make your life hell.’

She then described joining a scheme to encourage young people into journalism, before joining a local technical college and then going on to university, which she dropped out of. 

The letter continues: ‘Three months before your 21st birthday, you will tell Mum the secret. You will be sobbing and shaking and she will be frightened because she doesn’t know what’s wrong. Christmas will be just a couple of weeks away. 

‘You have to tell her because you’ve met someone you like and you can’t live with the guilt anymore. You can’t get the words out so she says it: ‘Are you gay?’ And you will say, ‘Yes Mummy, I’m so sorry.’ And instead of getting mad, she will reply ‘Thank God you’re not pregnant’.’

She then described coming out to her friends and siblings, none of whom reacted badly. 

After several more paragraphs it concludes: ‘You will do ‘normal’ things. You will spend time with your Mum. You will go to work and pay your bills.

‘You will go to the cinema with your best friend every week because that’s your ritual – dinner then an action movie where things explode. You will fall in love again. You will smile every day, knowing that someone loves you as much as you love them.’

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said she was ‘deeply shocked and saddened’ to hear of the death.

‘My thoughts and condolences are with her family at this time. Those responsible for last night’s violence have nothing to offer anyone in Northern Ireland.

‘Their intolerable actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people who want to build a peaceful and more prosperous future for everyone in Northern Ireland.’

Mark H Durkan, SDLP MLA for Foyle, said he was left ‘heartbroken and angry’ by the killing. ‘Just leaving Creggan, heartbroken and angry at the senseless loss of a young life,’ he tweeted.

‘Violence only creates victims, that’s all it ever has done. The thoughts and prayers of our city are with the young woman’s family and friends, may she rest in peace.’ 

A GoFundMe has been set up to cover funeral expenses for the family.  

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