Police have launched a murder investigation following the death of a man nine years after he was severely brain damaged in a “vicious” unprovoked sectarian attack.
Paul McCauley was attacked by a loyalist mob at a barbecue in the Waterside area of Londonderry in July 2006.
Following his death, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said today they have commenced a murder investigation.
Throughout the course of the police probe - spanning the last nine years - detectives have arrested and questioned more than two dozen people, but just one man was jailed for his part in the assault.
Last year, police apologised for the fact more people had not been brought to justice.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said he would like to express sympathy and solidarity with the family of Mr McCauley and also called for justice.
Senior Investigating Officer DCI Michael Harvey said the family have conducted themselves with “great dignity” since the “vicious” attack on Mr McCauley and his friends, adding: “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.”
He said detectives are committed to bringing those responsible to justice.
In a statement on the SDLP website, Mr Durkan said: “I would like to express my sympathy for and solidarity with the McCauley family at this time. They have endured a torrid nine years watching their son suffer in a manner few of us can imagine.
“Their pain has been compounded by the failure to see justice done. All but one of the perpetrators of this sickening sectarian crime have evaded the law.
“Today may not be the time to dwell on the shortcomings of the police investigation into this incident but we must get behind the McCauley family in their campaign to see justice for Paul.
“I was at school with Paul and know what a gentle being he was. That his life has been destroyed and that those responsible are still walking the streets is very difficult to take.’’
Mr McCauley, who was in his late thirties at the time of his death, was at the event in Chapel Road, which was organised for a friend who was leaving to teach abroad, when the party-goers were set upon back in 2006.
The victim was knocked to the ground by a gang of around 15 people and his head was kicked and stamped on, causing major injuries.
Police said the investigation team remain keen to hear from anyone who believes they may be able to assist them.
The number to call is 101. Alternatively, information can be passed on anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers on freephone 0800 555 111.