Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Cigarette DNA links man to 1981 killing, court told

Constable John Proctor who was murdered in 1981
Constable John Proctor who was murdered in 1981

A cigarette butt containing the DNA of a man accused of shooting a policeman dead after he visited his newborn son 32 years ago was found at the scene of the killing, a court has been told.

RUC Reserve Constable John Proctor was shot dead in a hail of automatic gunfire at a hospital car park in Co Londonderry minutes after visiting his wife and son.

Seamus Martin Kearney (54) of Gorteade Road, Swatragh, Co Londonderry, denies murder and possessing an Armalite AR15 assault rifle used in the shooting.

It is alleged that a cigarette butt found among spent bullet casings after the shooting contained a full DNA profile of Kearney.

A prosecution lawyer told the non-jury trial that the 25-year-old policeman had been visiting his wife Kathleen at the Mid Ulster Hospital on September 14 1981, when terrorists struck in the lower car park of the hospital grounds.

"It is alleged the defendant was part of that terrorist group that carried out the attack on Mr Proctor and he is responsible for the murder in joint enterprise,'' he told Belfast Crown Court.

The lawyer told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Mr Proctor had parked in the hospital car park and went inside to visit his wife.

"Around 9pm, Kathleen Proctor walked down the corridor with her husband and said her goodbyes to him," he said.

"She left him and said goodbye to him from a window. A few minutes later she heard shots.''

The lawyer said witness Diane Herron told police she was in the car park and saw "a man with a gun and saw him crouching down as if to shoot and then she heard a number of shots''.

Another witness said he was visiting his wife in hospital and saw Mr Proctor walking to his car and heard 'crack, crack, crack'.

"He then saw a white Ford Escort with a black roof scream past and the tyres spinning on the gravel in the car park.''

The lawyer added that Mr Proctor sustained gunshot wounds to his chest and abdomen caused by high-velocity bullets.

He was rushed to hospital but later died from his injuries.

Judge McFarland was told that a short time before the murder, a man entered a house on the Derrynoid Road in Draperstown.

The man told the family: "We are from the Provisional IRA. We want your car.''

When the man left with the keys to the white Ford Escort, he told the family: "Don't phone the police for an hour.''

Witness Stephen Wylie told police he saw the car travelling at speed in the Tobermore area around 9pm on September 14.

RUC officers later recovered the car but a forensic examination of it provided no clues.

The Crown lawyer said 13 spent bullet casings were found at the scene along with two cigarette butts.

One cigarette had no DNA profile, but he claimed the second was found to contain DNA.

As part of a historical review of the evidence, the second butt was tested and found to contain a full DNA profile of the accused.

"The chances of it being the profile of any other man is said to be one in one billion chance,'' said the prosecution.

The Crown lawyer said Kearney was linked to the murder through his DNA and also because the weapon – recovered by police in 1986 – used to kill the RUC man was used in a murder bid on a UDR patrol of which he was subsequently convicted.

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