A Belfast man on trial for the murder of a taxi driver in the city almost four years ago has walked free from the Special Criminal Court in Dublin after the trial dramatically collapsed.
The trial was halted after judges were told that a prosecution witness refused to give evidence, claiming that he had been threatened by Republicans.
There were emotional scenes inside the court as supporters of Gerard Mackin cheered and clapped while members of the murdered man’s family, including his mother, wept openly.
After the hearing Nicola McReynolds, a sister of victim Eddie Burns, said: “We are a brokenhearted family having been through a retrial. We, the Burns family, will continue to fight for justice for our Eddie. Eddie was a gentleman.”
Earlier prosecuting counsel Michael Bowman told the court that the State was not proceeding in the case of Mackin, after only three days of evidence.
The trial had resumed at the Criminal Courts in Dublin yesterday after the three judges of the court had heard evidence at the Laganside Courts in Belfast on Monday and Tuesday.
It was the second trial of Mackin at the Special Criminal Court after his original conviction was quashed last July. In Belfast on Tuesday the chief prosecution witness in the trial refused to give evidence and said he feared for his life.
Damien O'Neill told Belfast High Court judge Ronald Weatherup and the three judges of the Special Criminal Court: “I have been threatened that if I give any evidence I will be shot dead.”
Mr O' Neill, who was arrested in Belfast on Monday night, said he had been visited twice in the past three weeks by “men from the republican movement”.
The judge discharged Mr O'Neill after refusing a prosecution application to have a statement made by Mr O'Neill to the PSNI in 2007 admitted in evidence.
Gerard Mackin (28), from the Whiterock area of west Belfast, with an address at Raheen Close, Tallaght, Dublin, had denied the murder of Mr Burns, a 36-year-old father-of-five, of Prospect Park, Belfast, at Bog Meadow, Falls Road, Belfast, on March 12, 2007.
He had also pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder of Damien O'Neill, the possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and causing serious harm to Mr O'Neill on the same date.
Mackin's trial opened at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin last month but was adjourned to allow for the taking of evidence in Northern Ireland.
Mackin opted for trial in the Republic under the Criminal Law Jurisdiction Act of 1976 which allows suspects to be tried in the Republic for alleged offences in Britain or Northern Ireland.