Belfast Telegraph

Evidence examined in death probe

Up to 16,000 pages of evidence are being examined as part of an investigation into the death of a man whose body was found in Newry Canal, a coroner has heard.

Gareth O'Connor, 24, vanished while en route to Dundalk garda station in 2003. A preliminary hearing of the inquest into the Co Armagh man's fate was held in Belfast.

Family solicitor Paul Dougan said: "The document page count is colossal, maybe 15-16,000 pages of material has been printed out, a lot of it is not hugely relevant but it is a huge exercise to familiarise yourself with its contents and that process is ongoing."

His scrutiny of the material should be complete by Easter.

Mr O'Connor's family believed he was abducted and killed by the Provisional IRA. It had been feared the father of two had been "disappeared" forever before a tip-off led police to a section of the Newry Canal off the Omeath Road.

Detectives recovered a submerged blue Volkswagen Golf, the car Mr O'Connor was last seen driving through the south Armagh border village of Newtownhamilton on May 11, 2003. Inside lay his badly decomposed body.

Mr O'Connor was travelling to Dundalk garda station where he regularly reported as part of bail conditions imposed after he was charged in the Republic with Real IRA membership.

Police solicitor Ken Boyd told the preliminary hearing the service had provided all non-confidential documents and there were no further ones in its possession that would be relevant.

Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson has completed a draft report on the death. His office promised to supply chief coroner John Leckey with a copy of the document in 2010 but he has not received it and police have no record of having a copy of it.

Ombudsman representative Dunlop McCubbin, deputy senior investigating officer, said the final version of the report would not be ready before the end of the inquest.

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