The family of Derry man Paul McCauley have said they are devastated following the death of their son and brother.
Paul McCauley was left severely brain damaged following a vicious sectarian assault in 2006 after he had enjoyed a summer barbecue with friends at Chapel Road in the city. In an unprovoked attack, the father of one was left fighting for his life.
Requiring round the clock care and unable to communicate, he had remained in the Longfield Care Home on the outskirts of the city where his parents, Jim and Cathy maintained a routine of visiting their son twice and sometimes three times every day.
Paul passed away last night surrounded by his mother and father and other family members.
Speaking to the Journal, Jim McCauley said the family were unsure as to when they will be able to lay Paul to rest.
“This has now changed from a murder bid into a murder case,” he said.
“There are very mixed emotions for all of us this morning. Paul suffered a lot and had been treated in hospital recently for an infection. There is a relief and a freedom for him, but not for us. We were prepared for his death but it doesn’t make it any easier that it was expected.”
Senior Investigating Officer DCI Michael Harvey said police had commenced a murder inquiry: “On behalf of the entire police family, I want to extend our deepest sympathies to the McCauley family following Paul’s death. They have conducted themselves with great dignity over the past almost nine years since the vicious attack on Paul and his friends. The love and care they gave to Paul have been a beacon of light in a tragically dark set of circumstances.
“Nothing we can say will ease the pain which the family is enduring at this sad time. I have only recently assumed responsibility for the investigation but I know I speak for everyone in the Major Investigation Team, previous senior investigating officers and colleagues in District police when I offer the McCauley family our heartfelt condolences. They have been a compelling voice on Paul’s behalf, a voice with dignity, energy and compassion.
“Paul was an innocent victim of an unprovoked sectarian assault on 16 July 2006. Our Chief Constable said last year he was sorry that more people had not been brought to justice than the one individual who was convicted and sentenced.
“In memory of Paul, for the McCauley family and in the interests of justice, police stand ready to explore any opportunities provided either by a change in circumstances or a qualm of conscience. The investigation remains open and detectives are committed to bringing those responsible to justice.”
Since the attack which occurred when Paul was 29, he had remained in a vegetative state, unable to communicate and confined to bed for most of the time.
Only one member of the gang who attacked Paul was ever prosecuted. Daryl Proctor was convicted of the attack and given a 12-year jail term. He was released in February this year.
The others involved have never been brought to justice.
Local politicians have made a fresh call for those with information about the gang who carried out the attack to bring it forward.
SDLP Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan said: “There will be sympathy and solidarity for the family right across Derry,” Paul has lost his fight for life but I think everyone will agree that the fight for justice must continue and that this must be prioritised by the PSNI.”
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson said the identities of those who attacked Paul are well known within the unionist community.
She told the ‘Journal’: “Paul, a young father with his whole life in front of him, was cruelly robbed of his future during a frenzied attack that caused devastating injuries. The fact is that up to 15 people were involved in the attempt to murder Paul and his friends, and their identities are well known in their community. Jim McCauley, Paul’s father often referred the wall of silence within the unionist community.
“There is an onus on everyone, particularly elected representatives, to encourage those with information about the attack to come forward so that those responsible can be brought to justice. That would send a positive and reassuring message to the McCauley family and, indeed, the wider community of Foyle,” she added.