Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

No prosecution over reporter murder

Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan was murdered in 2001
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Sunday World journalist Martin O'Hagan in October 2001

Eight people investigated over the murder of a Northern Ireland journalist more than a decade ago will not be prosecuted because of concerns about a key witness's evidence, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has said.

Sunday World reporter Martin O'Hagan, 51, was shot dead by loyalists in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in September 2001.

Neil Hyde gave an account to police which could not be independently verified, the prosecution authority said.

DPP Barra McGrory QC said: "The prosecution of any of the accused in this case would depend on the evidence of Neil Hyde.

"Having regard to all the circumstances, it has been concluded that, in the absence of any corroboration, the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any individual."

Mr O'Hagan worked for the Sunday World, a Dublin-based tabloid which targets terrorism and organised crime, and built a reputation for covering paramilitary and drugs-related stories. He was the first journalist believed to have been murdered in the line of work in the history of Northern Ireland's troubles, killed as he returned from the pub in his home town.

A car pulled alongside and a gunman shot him. Marie O'Hagan escaped death when her husband pushed her into a hedge to protect her.

During the police investigation a suspect, Hyde, indicated that he was willing to assist the authorities. He was interviewed at length by detectives about his knowledge of the killing and his own involvement.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) prosecuted him for a range of offences including conspiring to carry a firearm with intent to wound in connection with the murder, which had been claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Hyde was jailed for three years last February. Sentencing judge Patrick Lynch QC told him if he had not agreed to identify the alleged culprits in Mr O'Hagan's murder and give evidence about the activities of the outlawed LVF, he would have been imprisoned for 18 years. The PPS is considering whether Hyde should be referred back to court so his sentence can be reviewed and that decision hinges on whether he gave an untruthful account.

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