Belfast Telegraph

Accused duo were riot ringleaders on night Lyra died, court told

Paul McIntyre
Paul McIntyre
Christopher Gillen

By Lizzie Dearden

A judge cited threats to "execute" people helping the police investigation into Lyra McKee's murder as he refused bail to two men accused of involvement in other violence on the same night.

Paul McIntyre (51), of Ballymagowan Park in Creggan, is charged with riot, petrol bomb offences and arson of a hijacked vehicle.

Christopher Gillen (38), of Balbane Pass, is charged with riot, petrol bomb offences and the arson and hijacking of a tipper truck.

Both men, who were arrested on Thursday, refused to stand or recognise its authority as they appeared in Londonderry Magistrates Court on Saturday.

District Judge Barney McElholm said he had concerns about witnesses being prevented from coming forward.

"We're all aware of the disgraceful graffiti in Creggan that warned off anyone talking to police. Whoever did that did these two men a great disservice," he said.

"There is no address anywhere in this city which would be suitable in this case, at any stage. I will refuse bail."

A police officer had told the court of concerns that both men may attempt to intimidate witnesses or attempt to flee the jurisdiction if they received bail.

Graffiti has appeared in Derry with a picture of a rat and the message: "Informers will be shot. IRA."

Other graffiti says: "RUC informers: They will forget about you, we won't. IRA."

Another slogan claimed the IRA was "here to stay" following changes to pro-IRA murals during a wave of condemnation following Ms McKee's death.

One wall that was changed to call the republican terrorist group "done" in the aftermath of the shooting was altered to read: "New IRA aren't done. Undefeated army 2019. Unfinished revolution."

The New IRA claimed responsibility for attacks on police in Derry's Creggan on April 18, but said the shooting of Ms McKee - who was standing next to a police vehicle - was an accident.

Prosecutors allege that Mr McIntyre and Mr Gillen are connected to the New IRA, and that it orchestrated rioting that led up to Ms McKee's death on April 18.

"All nationalism corrupts into fascism eventually, whether it's Irish nationalism or British or Polish nationalism. We've all seen where it ends up," Judge McElholm told the court.

"I have to bear in mind these gentlemen, there's no evidence either of them belonging to any paramilitary organisation, but they are a part of an organisation with a defined ideology."

A PSNI detective told the court that an MTV documentary crew filming in Derry with presenter Reggie Yates caught the two defendants on camera on the day Ms McKee was killed.

They were allegedly seen in the offices of republican group Saoradh that afternoon, speaking in the company of members.

Police claim footage taken from CCTV and mobile phones later showed two masked men, in identical clothing and footwear to the defendants, exiting a hijacked tipper truck carrying a crate of petrol bombs before throwing them at police.

"Police believe these were the ringleaders, that's obvious from footage," the detective told the court. Amid the unrest, a masked gunman fired shots in the direction of police and struck Ms McKee, who died of her injuries in hospital.

Police say more than 140 people have come forward with mobile phone or social media footage.

An 18-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy, who were arrested on the same day as the defendants, were released without charge.

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