Bomb attack targeted press photographer

Published Friday, 14 December 2012
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A Co Down press photographer has spoken out about his family's ordeal, following an overnight pipe bomb attack - which he believes may have been a case of mistaken identity - at their Mayobridge home.

Bomb attack targeted press photographer
The pipebomb was found at the door of the house in Mayobridge. (© Mark Pearce)

Mark Pearce, who has been taking news and PR photos for 20 years, had to get his family - including young children - out of their home in the middle of the night after being woken up by police.

"There was a policeman who came in and said: 'Listen, there's a device at the front of the house - we need you to evacuate the house'," Mark said on Friday, still shaken by events overnight.

It emerged that police had received a telephone warning from a pay phone, which sparked the security alert shortly after midnight.

"We were escorted out the side of the house and taken away. At the exact same time, we saw the same thing happening to our neighbours," Mark recalled.

A pipe bomb had been left propped against the front door and Army bomb disposal experts were called to the house in the Carraig Crosain area.

I cannot understand how I could have offended somebody so much that they would endanger myself, my children, my partner

Mark Pearce

Six houses had to be evacuated, with Mark and his family taken to another neighbour's home.

"For the next four hours, we sat in fear," he said.

"Police explained that it was a viable device and that we were very lucky."

But the photographer can't understand why he and his family were targeted, as he has never covered the type of stories that could be perceived as controversial.

"I'm not an undercover photographer - I cover news and public relations. I cannot grasp why my children's lives were put in danger," Mark said

The family and their neighbours were allowed to return to their homes at about 5.30am.

The National Union of Journalists has strongly condemned the pipe bomb attack.

"The targeting of a journalist in this way is totally unacceptable and we are deeply concerned by this attempt to intimidate journalists," NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said.

South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie also hit out at those responsible.

"Those who left this pipe bomb at a house in Mayobridge late last night were intent on causing serious injury to those who resided there," she said.

"Thankfully nobody was injured as the pipe bomb was diffused.

"The message is clear to those who perpetrate these despicable acts - get off our backs and let us live in peace and harmony."

One of her party colleagues, South Down MLA Sean Rogers, added: "I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Pearce at Stormont this week when he photographed an event on the importance of thorough eye testing for young children.

"Those responsible for this attack show no respect whatsoever for human life and are totally reckless as to the hurt and distress they have caused to the family."

What photograph is worth taking a young family's life?

Mark Pearce

Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitríona Ruane added that the attack was both extremely dangerous for the family and an affront to democracy.

"In any civilised society, a free press is paramount in maintaining democracy and this attack needs to seen in that context," she said.

"While people may not agree with sections of the media, there is no excuse to attack them or their families."

Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn also condemned the attack.

"There should never be any attempt to silence the press through the use of violence. I would like to extend my support to Mark and his family," he said.

Ulster Unionist MLAs John McCallister and Danny Kennedy branded the attack "cowardly" and expressed their shock over what had happened.

"I would commend the actions of the police who ensured that the family and their neighbours were evacuated to safety," Mr McCallister said.

"Their bravery is in contrast to the cowardly actions of those who planted this device in the full knowledge that innocent people, including children, could have been killed."

Mr Kennedy added: "I know the press photographer who was the subject of this attack and it is an absolute disgrace that he and his family should be targeted in this way.

"This is an attack on press freedom."

Detectives in Newry are investigating and have appealed for information.

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Danny in Ulster wrote (772 days ago):
I can't understand why this man would be targeted with a pipe bomb simply for doing his job as a press photograher. Good to hear the PSNI found the device first and no one was injured. It has been reported on UTV that they don't believe it is linked to the protests in Belfast.
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