Press photographer's home targeted in Mayobridge pipe bomb attack

Pipe bomb The pipe bomb was left outside the front door of Mark Pearce's family home.

A pipe bomb has been discovered at the family home of a press photographer near Newry in County Down.

Mark Pearce, from Mayobridge, described the attack as a "terrifying" experience and said he believes he was targeted because of his job.

His family were woken by police shortly after midnight on Friday at their home in Carraig Crosain. The PSNI helped to evacuate six homes in their street.

Army bomb disposal officers dealt with the bomb which was declared viable.

Start Quote

I'm scared, I'm fearful that somebody could have the audacity to come to my door and put a bomb to endanger me, my family, my neighbours - for what?”

End Quote Mark Pearce Press photographer

It had been left outside Mr Pearce's front door. He was in the house with his partner and children, aged 12 and 14, at the time.

He told BBC Radio Ulster: "We were woken at a quarter past twelve with the rear door of my house being battered, torches shining, and police came into the house.

"I had to grab my children, grab what I could and escape out the back of the house and pass by a pipe bomb which had been set against the front door of my home," he said.

"It was terrifying, trying to calm my children. It was just something I wouldn't wish on anybody."

The attack has been condemned by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), the Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association and the UK Society of Editors.

Mr Pearce has worked as a photographer for over 20 years but said he has never been targeted in this way before.

'Vendetta'

He said police told his family they were "extremely lucky" that the device had not exploded, but added that he had been left shaken by the experience.

"I'm scared, I'm fearful that somebody could have the audacity to come to my door and put a bomb to endanger me, my family, my neighbours - for what?"

The photographer said he believed the attack was connected to his job but that it was likely to be a case of "mistaken identity".

"Being a press photographer, I go to many events and I presume I have been seen at an event and somebody has taken a vendetta against me," Mr Pearce said.

"I don't know what sort of a photograph could give somebody the idea that putting a bomb at their home would somehow justify it."

'Outrageous'

However, he said the attack would not prevent him from doing his job.

"I'm not going to allow myself to be beaten back by some thug. For a start, I don't take photographs that endanger anybody's life and I don't see why I should have my life endangered for doing something that I love."

The Northern Ireland Press Photographers Association described the attack as "outrageous".

In a statement, it said: "Photographers and other media working in Northern Ireland do so often at great personal risk and in very difficult circumstances to provide balanced and fair coverage of what is happening around the country, irrespective of anyone's political, ethnic or religious views."

"Our members come from all sides of the community and cover everything from civil unrest, sport and politics through to cheque presentations and Christmas babies and we will continue to do so," the association added.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said it was a worrying development.

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

Paul Connolly, the UK Society of Editors board member for Ireland, said the attack was a "sinister and worrying development".

"This is a disgusting and reprehensible attack on a man and his family, which should be condemned in the strongest possible terms," he said.

Mr Connolly, who is also managing editor of the Belfast Telegraph, added: "This horrific incident underlines the grave threats that continue to be faced by photographers and journalists working in Northern Ireland.

"Last year a photographer was shot in the leg by rioters, and earlier this month another photographer sustained head injuries alleged to have been caused by a blow from a police baton. During the summer a reporter was the victim of a threat from a loyalist paramilitary figure.

"I would urge everyone - including police, judiciary and political representatives - to take note of these very real dangers."

Residents in Carraig Crosain were allowed to return to their homes at about 05:20 GMT.

Police have appealed for information about the attack.

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