Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Identities revealed of men under republican dissident death threat for alleged drug activity

Risk assessed by detectives investigating Belfast 'body in lake' murder

MURDERED: Kevin Kearney
MURDERED: Kevin Kearney

Two Belfast men under dissident republican death threat for alleged involvement in drugs can be named, a judge ruled today.

A ban on identifying Eamon Clarke and Mark Kennedy had been imposed after police involved in the Kevin Kearney murder investigation assessed the risk against them.

But reporting restrictions were lifted on the basis that those intent on harming the pair already know them and have formed opinions on their alleged activities.

No details of their court appearances can be published, however, in a bid to ensure their protection.

Clarke, 24, with an address at Great Victoria Street, and Kennedy, 33, of Glennor Crescent East, Carryduff, are jointly charged with possessing cannabis and possession with intent to supply.

The alleged offences stretch back to an incident in Belfast in 2011.

A temporary prohibition on naming either man was imposed last week when the case came before the city's Magistrates' Court for the first time. 

Defence lawyers based their fears on media reports and from speaking to police.

Details of a threat found on a republican website were advanced as part of their case.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was also alerted to reports of masked and armed men going into a bar in the city earlier this month, reading out a statement, naming a number of people and warning them to leave the area.

A police officer involved in the case confirmed attempts have been made to contact Clarke and alert him to a threat against him.

The message the PSNI intend to give him reads: "A report to police states that a threat to Eamon Clarke has been issued by paramilitaries.

"The threat states that he had 48 hours to leave or would be executed."

According to a senior detective investigating the murder of Mr Kearney the threat is credible, the court heard.

Dissident republicans shot the 46-year-old father of four in north Belfast earlier this month.

A separate threat message has been served on Kennedy.

In court today Judge Bagnall accepted the police evidence showed a real and immediate threat to both men.

But she rejected defence submissions that press reporting of the criminal case against them would heighten the risk.

"It's clear that those individuals who issued these threats do know the defendants, they have been named and, I presume, if interested can identify them, where they live and other aspects of their lives," she said.

"My interpretation of the threat is they have already formed a view as to the activities, behaviour and responsibilities of the defendants long before there's been any court process.

"Whilst there is now a court process I do not consider that materially increases the risk to the individuals with regard to the context of the threat that has been issued."

However, Judge Bagnall also held that publishing their scheduled court dates could increase the risk to their lives.

On that basis she banned disclosure of any details on future appearances.

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