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Lyra McKee killing: Family of murdered journalist pay tribute to 'gentle, innocent soul' on eve of her funeral

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The family of murdered journalist Lyra McKee who was killed in Londonderry have paid tribute to her as “a friend to all” and a “gentle, innocent soul”.

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They said her “openness and her desire to bring people together made her totally apolitical” as they gave a statement ahead of her funeral on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old died as a result of injuries sustained when she was shot on the Creggan estate on April 18.

Ms McKee’s family said her “personal philosophy” was that the “only way to overcome hatred and intolerance was with love, understanding and kindness”.

Lyra McKee pictured in a recent photo before her death last Thursday (AFP/Getty Images)

Ms McKee’s funeral is to be held at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

Detectives from the PSNI Major Investigation Team continue to appeal for help from the local community in Creggan or anyone with information on her death.

An Irish Republican Army (IRA) splinter group had earlier said one of its “volunteers” killed Ms McKee.

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

In a statement given to The Irish News using a recognised code word, the group offered “full and sincere apologies” to her family and friends.

Ms McKee’s mother Joan, brothers Gary and David and sisters Joan Hunter, Nichola Corner and Mary Crossan paid tribute in a statement on Tuesday night.

It said: “On Thursday 18th April our beautiful Lyra was taken from us.

“A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, a partner, a niece, a cousin, and above all, a best friend and confidante to so many of us.

“A friend to all, a gentle innocent soul who wouldn’t wish ill on anyone. Such a warm and innocent heart, she was the greatest listener, someone who had time for everyone.

“She was a smart, strong-minded woman who believed passionately in inclusivity, justice and truth.

People hold candles during a vigil at Belfast City Hall in memory of murdered journalist Lyra McKee (PA)

“Lyra spoke to and made friends with anybody and everybody, no matter what their background, those of all political views and those with none. This openness, and her desire to bring people together, made her totally apolitical.

“We would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and love we have witnessed this past few days. It has been of immense solace that Lyra meant so much to so many.

“We ask everyone who knew Lyra to continue her message of positivity and hope, by respecting her memory with dignity and respect.

“We as a family know that the whole community has been touched by the events of Thursday night and that many are rightly angry.

“However, we would ask that Lyra’s life and her personal philosophy are used as an example to us all as we face this tragedy together.”

A 57-year-old woman arrested in connection with the journalist’s killing has been released unconditionally.

Two teenage men initially arrested by detectives investigating the murder were later released without charge.

The New IRA is an amalgam of armed groups opposed to the peace process and it recently claimed responsibility for parcel bombs sent to London and Glasgow in March.

Police believe the violence was orchestrated in response to an earlier search by officers aimed at averting imminent trouble associated with this week’s anniversary of the Easter Rising.

The Government has rejected apologies for the killing of Ms McKee, saying her murder was “no accident”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: “To those responsible for this act of terrorism, we say we have heard your excuses and your hollow apologies. No one buys it.

“This was no accident. There is nothing that can justify this murderous act and you are being called out for what you really are.”

Ms Bradley said the “voices of peace” are “louder than those who peddle hate and division in a city with so much to offer.”

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