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Murder accused ‘thought gun was replica’

By Deborah McAleese

A voilent criminal who shot a father-of-four dead in front of his wife during a robbery at their home has told a court that he did not realise the gun was real.

Taking the stand in his own defence yesterday, Ivan Darren Kernohan (35) told Belfast Crown Court that he had asked a member of the UDA for the loan of a replica gun or blank-firing pistol to use during a robbery at financial adviser Geoff Kerr’s home where he wanted to steal the 60-year-old’s legally held firearms.

Kernohan admits shooting Mr Kerr, but denies murder. He told the court that he did not know the gun he had been provided with was a real and fully loaded Glock pistol.

Kernohan also said he had no memory of firing the gun twice during a struggle with Mr Kerr in his Templepatrick home on April 27, 2009.

He said that he was dazed and unsteady at the time because Mr Kerr had struck him several times over the head with a heavy object.

Mr Kerr, a gun enthusiast, was shot through the heart and died almost instantly as he struggled with Kernohan and his accomplice Martin Fleming after they forced their way into his home. Kernohan said that he would have been able to sell Mr Kerr’s handguns for £2,000 each and his shotguns for £500.

“I was going to sell them to anybody who wanted them,” he said.

Mr Kerr’s wife Sally and their sons watched from the public gallery as Kernohan, from Moss Drive in Antrim, was led by prison guards from the dock to the witness box.

Kernohan told the jury the plan was to go to the house on the pretence of delivering a takeaway. He said they were then to force their way in and tie up whoever was there.

However, the plan went wrong when Mr Kerr tackled Kernohan and the gun dropped to the floor.

When asked by defence barrister Barry McDonald QC how he felt about his involvement in Mr Kerr’s death, Kernohan replied: “Obviously shattered that Mr Kerr had lost his life. It is not something I intended to do.”

Crown prosecutor Ciaran Murphy QC told him, however: “You pulled the trigger twice that night. You put a bullet in the chamber and you knew it was a real gun from a terrorist. It was not a mistake and it was not an accident.”

The jury will today hear closing submissions before retiring to consider their verdicts.

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