Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Man charged following Forkhill feud shooting

By Diarmúid Pepper

A 30-year-old man has been remanded in custody charged with a number of offences including attempted murder and hijacking, relating to a shooting incident in Forkhill on Tuesday evening last.

Brian Ward, of Dobson’s Way, Bessbrook, was arrested trying to board a plane to Luton while allegedly using another man’s passport.

Appearing before Newry Magistrates Court on Saturday, he was also charged with hijacking and possessing a shotgun.

A police officer told the court he could connect Ward with the charges against him.

The charges derive from an incident linked to a feud between rival Traveller gangs, in which a 54-year-old man was attacked by a gang before one of the assailants accidentally shot himself while attempting to escape. 

The incident occurred at around 6.20 pm in the Park Urney estate in Forkhill.

A blue Honda Accord sped into the estate before turning and speeding towards a parked car near the exit of the estate. A 54-year-old man who was in the parked vehicle appeared to flee towards a premises across the street.

The 37-year-old assailant is then thought to have chased the 54-year-old as two hooded men attacked the parked car.  The man was then hit across the head by the assailant with an object which is thought to have been a shotgun. 

Shattered glass is strewn across the road where windows were smashed in a vehicle at the scene of an assault and shooting incident in Park Urney, Forkhill on Tuesday.

The purported assailant is then said to have dropped to the ground before limping away from the alleged victim; it is believed that he mistakenly shot himself in the stomach during the attack. 

The 37-year-old man under0went surgery in Daisy Hill Hospital after being dumped at the entrance of the Newry hospital by the other hooded men who are alleged to have been involved in the incident.  The man is believed to be in a critical but stable condition.

The 54-year-old who was the alleged intended victim was also hospitalised but has since been released from Craigavon Hospital where he was receiving care. 

The PSNI is now appealing for anyone who may have seen the blue Honda Accord to come forward.  The car was in the Forkhill area at 6pm and at 6.31pm the same car left the 37-year-old man who was wounded by a gunshot outside Daisy Hill Hospital.  The car then sped off and was later found burned out in the Mourne View Park area of Newry as around 8.20pm. 

Detective Inspector Handley called it a “reckless series of events” and added that it was “only by sheer luck that we are not dealing with a tragic situation”.

The Detective also expressed concern that innocent bystanders could “have been caught up in this and injured”.

Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MP Mickey Brady labelled the incident a “savage attack and something we do not want in our communities”.  He also urged anyone with information to contact that police in order to “get these dangerous criminals off our streets and away from our communities”.

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty MLA said it was lucky no one was killed in the incident and condemned those responsible: “Forkhill is a close knit and family oriented community who don’t deserve to be endangered by or subjected to this reckless ‘wild west’ style behaviour.  It was reckless and someone could have been killed,” he said, adding that he has asked the police to take “all measures…to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and that this type of incident is prevented from happening again”.

The incident is said to involve members of the Traveller community in what is believed to be the latest in a series of escalating incidents.

In July of this year, a traveller “call-out” video was filmed in the garden of a premise in the Park Urney Estate.  The video, which is available on YouTube and has received over 23,000 views, shows a group of masked men brandishing machete-like weapons.  

In the video, an unknown man says: “We are here to cut you up”.

Another man says: “We will leave you with no limbs.”

Soon after, another video which circulated online appeared to show a skirmish outside one of the homes in Park Urney in Forkhill.   Several men, holding objects which appear to be the same as the machete-like weapons in the first video, surround a car as it tries to leave the Park Urney estate. A female voice, which is believed to be the same as that heard in the YouTube clip, can be heard saying: “Bring it on. The boys are on their way here.”

A local resident, who doesn’t wish to be named, said of the above incident: “There were children out playing in the street, and they had to literally go running for safety. You can only imagine how scary it was for them and how frightening it is for us as parents.”

Meanwhile, two other men also believed to be linked to the same feud between members of the Travelling community, were denied bail when they appeared in court on Friday.

Father and son, Charlie Ward Sr (50) and Charlie Ward Jr, 25, of O’Donoghue Park, Bessbrook, were both remanded in custody last week accused of hijacking, affray, arson, criminal damage and having a hook and machete.

The charges relate to an incident that occurred at Bearna Park in Meigh, on 10th October.

The prosecution said that between 8.00pm and 8.30pm, three women and a three-month-old baby were sitting in a van in Bearna Park when four cars then drove in to the estate.

One of the cars crashed into the van and men with weapons jumped out of it.  A slash hook came in through the window of the van and one of the women said she was pulled out with the child.

Two of the alleged victims claim they saw the two accused at the incident.

A search of the two men’s home on 16 October recovered a bullhook and two machetes.

The prosecution said that the incident was related to the escalation of a feud in the travelling community in the Newry area which has been ongoing for seven to eight months.

The two men were remanded to appear in court again next month.