Belfast Telegraph

Mental health of RUC killing charge man is questioned

By Donna Deeney

A man who admitted assisting in the murder of a police officer and attempting to murder three soldiers has had his mental capability to plea questioned by his defence solicitor.

Christopher O'Kane (39), of Kular Court, refused to stand in the dock at Londonderry Magistrate’s Court.

O’Kane was charged with assisting in the murder of Michael Ferguson, a 21-year-old police officer who was shot in the head in Shipquay Street on a busy Saturday afternoon in January 1993.

He also faced charges of attempting to murder two military police corporals at Ebrington Barracks on December 14, 1993, and of attempting to murder a lance corporal at the Fort George jetty in Derry on May 23, 1994, as well as being a member of the Provisional IRA between 1991 and 1996.

Mr O'Kane has admitted all of the offences. However, his defence solicitor, Ciaran Shiels, questioned a PSNI detective inspector about his client's mental capability, describing him as a “vulnerable man with mental health problems”.

Mr Shiels asked the detective to confirm that when Mr O'Kane was first examined by the Forensic Medical Officer he was declared to be not fit for interview.

The police officer agreed but added that a further examination by an “expert” said Mr O'Kane was fit for interview.

He added that the defendant gave “very detailed accounts” of the murder of Constable Ferguson as well as of his involvement in other offences including mortar attacks and punishment beatings.

Monday's court appearance followed O'Kane's arrest at his home on Thursday which happened a short time after the defendant was released from Gransha mental health hospital.

The court heard that police had questioned O'Kane several times at Gransha in the three weeks prior to his arrest and he was a patient at the hospital on at least 15 occasions over the past four years.

It also emerged that the defendant had walked barefoot into Strand Road police station in Derry in 2008 and admitted these offences, but subsequently withdrew the admission claiming he had taken alcohol and tablets.

At this time the Public Prosecution Service did not pursue the admission as it did not “pass the test” in relation to prosecution.

Mr Shiels made no application for bail for Mr O'Kane, but said this may change when his client at his next scheduled appearance in court on October 25 via video link.

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