Police in Northern Ireland have recovered the gun that was used to kill journalist Lyra Mckee.
The weapon was found along with ammunition and a fully primed bomb during searches in Londonderry last weekend.
Detectives believe the Hammerli X-Esse, a 22 German-made pistol, may have been stolen and had been used in attacks prior to the murder.
Lyra McKee, 29, was shot dead by the dissident republican New IRA as she covered riots in Londonderry in April 2019.
Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy described the recovery of the weapon as ‘a significant milestone’ in his investigation.
He said: ‘It enables us to protect the public away from the use of that firearm and enables us to protect our officers away from terrorist attacks using that gun.
‘But we’ve always been clear that the most important investigative avenue that comes from the gun is the forensic value that it may contain.’
A detailed forensic examination of the firearm is continuing. Detectives, who have trawled through more than 100 video clips, say they show that the gun jammed twice.
In his attempt to unblock it, they believe the gunman may have touched internal components of the weapon.
Superintendent Murphy said: ‘I’m confident that I know the identity of the gunman, I’m confident that I know the identity of the New IRA that were on the ground that night.
‘I’m confident at this stage that I can piece together the roles each of those individuals played.
‘The work for me and my team arising now from the recovery of the gun is to establish the evidence that proves the story that I’ve been able to tell over the last 15 months’.
Lyra’s death drew condemnation from around the world. Theresa May, then the British Prime Minister, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, both attended her funeral in Belfast.
Security correspondent with the Irish News, Allison Morris, said: ‘Within hours of this murder, the names of the people involved were widely known and would have been known to police but what they didn’t have was the evidence behind that.
‘So this gun was a key part of that evidence and the fact that there may well be DNA or other forensic evidence contained on this weapon that could lead them straight to the gunman is hugely significant.’