Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man Francis Lanigan who fought extradition goes on trial for hotel murder in 1998

Murder victim: John Knocker
Murder victim: John Knocker

By Michael Donnelly

A Belfast man who spent six years fighting extradition from Dublin - where he lived for 15 years under an assumed name - has gone on trial for murder at Belfast Crown Court.

Francis Lanigan (55), with a west Dublin address in Delhurst Terrace, Clonsilla, denies murdering John Stephen Knocker outside the now demolished Glengannon Hotel outside Dungannon on May 31, 1998.

Lanigan, who'd been working as a barber in Dublin under the pseudonym 'Ciaran McCrory', also denies having the 9mm pistol used in the shooting.

A prosecution lawyer told Mr Justice Horner, sitting without a jury in the Diplock-style trial, that Lanigan could be connected to the murder by eyewitnesses, by his DNA profiles recovered from the scene and a coffee cup obtained in Dublin years later during a covert Garda operation.

Mr Justice Horner was also shown CCTV footage, taken outside the hotel, showing a man being repeatedly punched and kicked about the body and head.

The prosecution claimed the man receiving the beating was Lanigan who then shot Mr Knocker twice in the head, once at point blank range, because he had gotten the better of him.

Prosecutors claim that in an affidavit, as part of the extradition process, Lanigan accepted that he "was attacked" outside the hotel, and "arising from that John Knocker lost his life".

Opening the case, the prosecution QC began by claiming that "an altercation" between Lanigan and Mr Knocker occurred in the hotel grounds. After being beaten and punched, Lanigan got a gun and having chased Mr Knocker, he "shot him and brought him to the ground, and then stood over the body and shot Mr Knocker in the head, causing his death".

"The manner of the killing is consistent with an execution in revenge for the attack upon him moments before," the barrister said. "The calm manner in which he behaved thereafter indicates his contempt for the deceased and an apparent willingness to send a message to onlookers.

"Upon his own admission in his affidavit, he was present and involved in an incident where, in his words, John Knocker lost his life, which really means he was shot in the head."

Mr Justice Horner heard that a post-mortem of 22-year-old Mr Knocker revealed he had been shot in the head twice, once on the left by his ear, and a second time in the back of the head.

The wound by his ear had debris consistent with the muzzle of the gun being just inches away when the fatal shot was fired.

This, claimed counsel, was consistent with the evidence of eyewitnesses on the Old Eglish Road just outside the hotel.

One witness claimed that following a fight, Mr Knocker made frantic attempts to get back into the hotel's 'Exit 15 Nightclub' before running across the car park and onto the road, followed by a second man. The next thing he heard was "four bangs" and the man in red fell down.

Counsel claimed the witness then saw the second male catch up with him and, kneeling down, "moved the man's head slightly and fired one more shot at that stage". In the aftermath the authorities were able to recover blood samples from the scene, including from a car the gunman fled in with a woman.

And in the following years, gardai tasked to help find Lanigan obtained a coffee cup - allegedly used by a freelance barber, 'Ciaran McCrory' - from which a DNA profile of Lanigan was allegedly obtained.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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