Belfast Telegraph

Alleged IRA bomber John Downey to be questioned over other crimes

Alleged IRA bomber John Downey
Alleged IRA bomber John Downey

By Alan Erwin

A 67-year-old man charged with murdering two British soldiers in 1972 is to be questioned about other historical alleged offences, it has emerged.

John Downey was brought before Belfast Magistrates' Court for an application to have him released into police custody.

Detectives were given up to three days to interview him about undisclosed matters unrelated to the current case against him. 

Downey's newly instructed solicitor, John Finucane, opposed the move on the basis that it was unnecessary and excessive.

The defendant is currently charged over a car bomb attack which killed Ulster Defence Regiment members Alfred Johnston and James Eames in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Downey, with an address in Creeslough, Co Donegal, faces prosecution after losing a battle against being extradited from the Republic of Ireland.

He was detained in October 2018 under a European Arrest Warrant, exhausting all appeals before handing himself in to the authorities earlier this month.

Lance Corporal Johnston and Private Eames died in an explosion on the Irvinestown Road in August 1972.

They were carrying out checks on a car when a command wire initiated device was detonated, killing them instantly.

The bomb went off as a truck carrying 13 off-duty soldiers approached, blowing it onto its side and injuring some of the troops inside.

That lorry is believed to have been the primary target for the attack.

Downey is also charged with aiding and abetting an explosion likely to endanger life.

A previous court was told his fingerprint was allegedly found on insulating tape used to construct the device.

Although the original impression has since degraded, photographs of it were said to have been used in "multiple comparisons".

They included analysis carried out on prints taken from Downey earlier this month, and also after his arrest at Gatwick Airport in 2013 for the 1982 bombing at London's Hyde Park.

He had been due to stand trial for the murder of four Royal Household Cavalry men in the Hyde Park attack.

But the case against him collapsed after it emerged that he received a letter of assurance from the British Government that he was not wanted for any offences.

The prosecution now intends to rely on the fingerprints taken at Gatwick as evidence in the current case.

Last week Downey was refused bail at the High Court.

He was produced from custody today for the police bid to be allowed to question him about separate matters.

Despite Mr Finucane's objections, Judge Philip Mateer QC granted a period of up to three days for the new interview purposes.

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