Constable Ronan Kerr died as he left home for work on Saturday after setting off a bomb that had been hidden underneath his car. Kerr, a Catholic, only graduated from police training college three weeks ago. The explosion happened as the officer got into his car in the residential Highfield Close development, off the main Gortin Road.
The head of Northern Ireland's police force has described the death of a police constable killed in a car bomb as a "tragedy for Omagh" and paid tribute to the 25-year-old officer. Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "Tragedy has returned to Omagh with the loss of constable Ronan Kerr. Ronan was relatively new to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) but had proven himself a good and dedicated officer in the short time he was with us. He had joined the police because he was willing to stand up and serve his community. No words could adequately describe the shock and sense of loss being felt by his colleagues and the residents of Omagh."
In 1998, a car bomb killed 29 people in Omagh, one of the worst atrocities carried out by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. Baggot said his "abhorrence and anger" at the waste of Kerr's life was shared by people in Omagh and across Northern Ireland and beyond. He described Kerr as "a modern-day hero".
Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness, deputy first minister of Northern Ireland and former IRA commander, also condemned the killing and referring to Kerr, said: "someone who was prepared to give so much has now given their life in belief of the peace process".
Kerr is the second policeman to have been killed since the PSNI was formed in 2001. Baggott said: "The PSNI has some of the bravest men and women in the world among its number ... who put on their uniform and selflessly go out and do their duty for their community despite the ever present threat from misguided terrorist criminals."
Pat Noma, a friend of Kerr's mother Nuala, said she had recently been widowed and had depended on Kerr, an only child, for support. "I'm calling on all the mothers in Omagh to come out on her behalf. We've got to find these people; we've got to stop them from doing this," she said. "Nobody in Omagh wants this to happen and we've got to call everybody together to hand them over. We can't tolerate this. Omagh has suffered enough."
The killing is thought to have been carried out by dissident republicans but no group has yet claimed responsibility for the murder.