senior detective who survived a murder attempt has been greeted with a standing ovation at an awards ceremony, thanking his “fantastic family” for their help during his recovery.
DCI John Caldwell was presented with the Special Recognition gong at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards on Friday night.
The high-profile detective has not spoken in public since he survived an attack by dissident republicans in Co Tyrone in February.
A special thank you goes to my fantastic family… there’s still some way to go, but with their love and support, I will get there.
He said he was “incredibly honoured” to receive the award.
“I am just sorry that these innocent children, including my own son, were subjected to such a harrowing ordeal,” Mr Caldwell said.
“They witnessed horrors that night that no child should ever have to.
“I am so glad that my son and his friends were not injured, although I appreciate the early psychological trauma will take longer to recover from. We will get through it together.
“They are a great bunch of kids and I am humbled by their nomination.”
Mr Caldwell was seriously injured after he was shot several times at a sports centre in Omagh, Co Tyrone in February after coaching a youth sports team.
His son had been with him as he loaded footballs into the boot of his car when the gunmen approached.
Mr Caldwell thanked the emergency staff who have helped him with his recovery, and those who ran over to help him after he was shot.
He said: “To the brave people who ran to help me when I was shot, that took some guts, as they were putting themselves in harm’s way. And thank you to the emergency services and the amazing medical staff who looked after me in many ways, for many months.
“A special thank you goes to my fantastic family… there’s still some way to go, but with their love and support, I will get there.”
Addressing the event via videolink, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak presented the Special Recognition award to Mr Caldwell, saying that he was someone he hugely admires.
Mr Sunak said: “A policeman, a father, a husband, a football coach. A man who, when his own life was in danger, was still thinking of others – calling out to the children around him to run to safety.
“When I visited him in his hospital bed, he was still thinking about the future of the society he loves.
“A great man and a true hero of Northern Ireland, DCI John Caldwell.”
Mr Caldwell was seen in public for the first time in May, at a garden party in Royal Hillsborough during a visit by the King and Queen where he had a private audience with Charles.