Coleraine tragedy: Councillor appeals for end to social media speculation on deaths of Nigel McGraw and Russell McAfee

A councillor who knows the families of two close friends who died suddenly in Coleraine has urged people not to engage in public speculation about the cause of deaths.

The two men have been named locally as good friends Nigel McGraw, 53 and Russell McAfee, 61, who were due to travel to Scotland this weekend to attend a Rangers FC match.

Police reported the “sudden deaths” of the two men at a property in the Elms Park area of Coleraine on Monday afternoon. The PSNI said they attended the scene, along with other emergency services, and are satisfied that there is “no immediate risk to the public”. Police also said the deaths are “not being treated as suspicious at this time”.

PUP councillor Russell Watton said today: “I had to put a post up on social media asking people to stop speculation about the deaths as it was upsetting the families so much.

Police remain at the scene in the Elms Park area of Coleraine where two men died suddenly at a property on Monday. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

“I said we really need to let the coroner find out what was going on and let him get on with his job, rather than depending on keyboard warriors. That seems to have quieted the speculation, which has pleased the families. They have just been devastated by it all.”

He said two men, whom he knew, were “great friends” who had been planning to attend a Rangers FC match in Scotland this weekend.

Mr Watton said on Monday: “It is a strange one because usually in a case like this it is quite clear what happened after a couple of hours. There was no foul play – definitely not.”

The Fire Service said information about the incident would only be released via the PSNI and declined to make any comment.

There was no obvious sign of any fire at the property but one eyewitness said the Fire Service were there so that firefighters in specialist hazardous material suits could enter the flat.

The PSNI have not issued any further information about the cause of death. Nor has it made any appeals for information or witnesses about the situation.

A spokeswoman for the Coroner’s Service told the News Letter today that the coroner has not yet concluded what the cause of death was.

“The Coroner’s investigation into these deaths is ongoing,” she said. “It would not be appropriate to comment further, at this time.”

The Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Richard Holmes, said the news which emerged from the Ballysally area of Coleraine has left “two families mourning the loss of their loved one, and an entire community in shock at these unexpected deaths”. He said his thoughts and prayers are with the men’s families, friends and neighbours, also paying tribute to the emergency services.

UUP Cllr Darryl Wilson also said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of the deaths and offered his “deepest sympathies to all impacted by this tragedy”.

SDLP East Londonderry MLA Cara Hunter had also expressed her shock. “My condolences go out to their families and friends at this very difficult time,” she said.


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