Belfast Telegraph

Butt 'held DNA of officer's killer'

A cigarette butt found at the scene of a policeman's murder in Northern Ireland almost 30 years ago carries the DNA of the man accused of the shooting, a court has heard.

Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve Constable John Proctor, 25, was gunned down by the IRA in the car park of the Mid Ulster Hospital in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, after visiting his wife June, who had just given birth to their son, John.

His wife was waving to him from her bedside window when the father of two from nearby Upperlands was ambushed on September 14, 1981.

Seamus Martin Kearney, 54, appeared in Derry Magistrates' Court, accused of the murder. The defendant, from Gorteade Road in Swatragh, Co Londonderry, denies the charge and an additional charge of possessing an Armalite AR 15 rifle on the same date.

A detective sergeant told District Judge Barney McElholm that a DNA sample found on the discarded butt matched the DNA profile of Kearney. "On July 19, 2010 the defendant was arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act and questioned about his knowledge of the murder," the witness said.

"He made no comment throughout the interview and he was released unconditionally after providing a specimen for DNA sampling.

"This was DNA matched with an item taken from the murder scene and it was found to be a match. The item was a cigarette butt which was found among 13 spent rifle cases."

Defence solicitor Stephen Atherton described the police case against the defendant as weak.

"The cigarette butt was found two days after the offence in a heavily populated public area," he said. "No forensic tent was ever erected at the scene. Identification statements made in 1981 cannot be safely relied on to identify anyone."

The defendant was released on his own bail of £5,000 and with two sureties, each of £5,000, to appear in court in Magherafelt on November 24.

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