Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Pair overturn Omagh bomb ruling

Two men have successfully appealed against a High Court ruling that held them responsible for the Omagh bombing today, but two others had their appeals dismissed.

Belfast High Court allowed appeals by Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly.

Appeals lodged by convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and fellow senior republican Liam Campbell were dismissed by a panel of three judges.

Twenty nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died when a Real IRA car bomb ripped through the County Tyrone market town of Omagh in August 1998.

No-one has ever successfully been convicted of the crime in a criminal court but two years ago the four men were found liable for the outrage and ordered to pay £1.6 million in compensation after a landmark civil case brought by some of the bereaved families.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed, said: "We are disappointed, we have to accept the ruling of the court, which we do, but we are disappointed.

"It has been a long struggle for the families, almost ten years, it looks like this work will continue for a number of years forward.

"It is not something that we look forward to but if we feel it is the right thing to do we will continue to do that."

Lord Justice Michael Higgins directed a retrial of the claims against Murphy and will hear arguments on a retrial of Daly.

He questioned evidence surrounding emails from a US undercover agent while overturning the judgment on Murphy.

"The paucity of the email evidence, the lack of consistency in the emails or at least ambiguity, the possibility of initials referring to someone other than Murphy and the fact that they refer on occasions to double hearsay considerably weakened the emails as evidence," he said.

"The judge's conclusion that it was cogent evidence is not sustainable."

On Daly, he said the appeal judges were not convinced that the trial judge would inevitably have reached the same conclusion about liability if a misdirection had not been heard.

"Accordingly, his appeal will be allowed."

On terrorist chief McKevitt, the appeal judge said: "McKevitt has failed to establish that the judge erred in reaching a conclusion that McKevitt was one of (those) responsible for trespass to the person in relation to the victims of the explosion."

Lord Justice Higgins heard the appeal in January alongside fellow lord justices Paul Girvan and Patrick Coghlin.

They noted that the original judge, Justice Declan Morgan, now Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice, had found the case against Campbell to be "overwhelming".

This was based on evidence that he was a member of the Real IRA's army council at the time of the attack and that he was in possession of one of the mobile phones used by the bombers.

The appeal judges agreed with his findings.

They ruled that "linking the pieces of evidence together, the judge was justified in reaching the conclusion which he did".

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