Lyra McKee: man jailed for possessing gun used to kill journalist

Niall Sheerin from Derry sentenced to seven years in prison, but not in connection with murder itself

A man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing the gun used to murder the journalist Lyra McKee.

Niall Sheerin, 29, from Derry, admitted possessing the pistol between September 2018 and June 2020.

Mr Justice Fowler at Belfast crown court handed down an extended custodial sentence on Wednesday of seven years’ imprisonment and a further five years on licence. He called Sheerin an associate of a “serious terrorist gang who posed a danger to the public”.

The New IRA, a dissident republican group, admitted shooting McKee during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in April 2019. The 29-year-old freelancer had been observing the disturbances from behind a police Land Rover.

The gun, a Hammerli X-Esse .22 pistol, was found wrapped in plastic bags and buried in a field in Derry in 2020. Ballistics tests linked it to the shooting of McKee and four other shootings in the city in the previous 21 months.

Fowler said the prosecution had not established that Sheerin was aware of the specific history of the gun, and that he was not sentencing him in connection with McKee’s murder.

Speaking outside court, the journalist’s sister, Nichola McKee-Corner, urged the man who pulled the trigger to come forward and accept responsibility. “Now the story of the gun has come to an end, but the story of the gunman continues,” she said.

She appealed to anyone with information about the gunman to come forward. She said: “Justice isn’t something that stands alone with the police service, justice is the whole business of the community.”

A reward for information about the murder has been doubled to £20,000.

Det Supt Eamonn Corrigan told reporters the investigation remained active. “It’s over three years now since that tragic day, and the pain felt by Lyra’s loved ones is understandably as raw as ever.

“I’m keen to reassure the community that we remain committed to working with them and our partner agencies to stop the corrosive influence of terrorists.”


Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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