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Arlene Foster to raise concerns over Omagh families' treatment after Seamus Daly case collapses

By Deborah McAleese

First Minister Arlene Foster is to meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to discuss the collapse of the case against Omagh bomb suspect Seamus Daly.

Mrs Foster said the way the victims' families had been treated by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) was "unacceptable".

Daly, who was charged with murdering 29 people in the biggest atrocity of the Troubles, walked free from Maghaberry Prison on Tuesday after the PPS withdrew its case against him.

Concerns over a number of discrepancies in the evidence of the prosecution's key witness led to a decision by the DPP Barra McGrory, to halt the case.

Families of those killed in the atrocity said they only became aware of the end of the case through the media. Many believe no one will ever be held accountable for the 1998 attack.

"It is very disappointing to hear of the manner in which the families learned about this development," Mrs Foster said.

"We will want to ask questions around that. We will also want to ask questions about why the DPP decided not to proceed in terms of this case, and we'll be following that up with him. We want to ask questions around the conduct of the case, how it was taken forward and how they communicated with the families, because I just feel that the way in which they were treated is unacceptable. There's always hope in terms of finding justice."

On Tuesday, the PPS announced its decision to halt the case. However, Mr McGrory insisted that the PPS and police were determined to take forward the prosecution of those responsible for the bombing "if any new evidence becomes available".

He also expressed "great sympathy with the families affected by the Omagh bomb" and said that he shared their disappointment.

The criminal case against Daly had relied upon the movements of a mobile phone, which prosecutors believed had been used by one of the bombers on the day of the deadly attack. A civilian witness was allegedly able to place that mobile phone in Daly's hands around the time of the bombing.

However, concerns were raised over the reliability of the witness's testimony under cross-examination during a pre-trial hearing last week. Upon reviewing the evidence, the PPS took a decision not to seek the return of Daly for Crown Court trial. In 2009, following a civil case, Daly and three others were ordered to pay £1.6m in damages to the bereaved relatives - money they are still pursuing.

Daly faced a civil retrial after successfully appealing against the original finding, but the second trial delivered the same outcome as the first, with Mr Justice John Gillen ruling him responsible for the attack. No one has ever been convicted of the atrocity in a criminal court.

In 2007, south Armagh electrician Sean Hoey was found not guilty of the 29 murders after a marathon trial.

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