Murdered woman ‘died trying to protect sister’

The family of an 18-year-old woman killed in a shooting in which her older sister was seriously injured is in deep shock, community leaders have said.

Lauren O’Neill, who only recently celebrated her birthday, was killed in a gun attack in the small Northern Ireland village of Bellaghy, Co Derry, on Saturday morning.

Her 21-year-old sister is in a critical condition in hospital after the shooting at a house in William Court which is now at the centre of a major police investigation.

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A 26-year-old man was arrested in nearby Toomebridge on suspicion of murder within an hour of the shooting and was last night being questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Another man and a woman, both aged 28, were arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender but were released unconditionally on Saturday night by detectives.

A priest said he believed Lauren died trying to protect her sister, while Stormont deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the family and said they were in trauma.

Mr McGuinness, who is MP for the area, said: “This family is clearly deeply shocked and traumatised by what has happened over the weekend.

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“Their daughter has been murdered and another daughter seriously injured.

“I spent some time with the family and offered our support and that of the wider community at this time.”

It is understood Lauren was living at her family home, in a neighbouring housing estate, and was visiting her older sister at the time of the shooting.