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Derry man charged over handgun identified as Lyra McKee murder weapon has bail conditions varied

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Lyra McKee (Photo by Jess LOWE / JESS LOWE PHOTOGRAPHY / AFP)

Lyra McKee (Photo by Jess LOWE / JESS LOWE PHOTOGRAPHY / AFP)

Lyra McKee (Photo by Jess LOWE / JESS LOWE PHOTOGRAPHY / AFP)

The man said to have been the 'quartermaster who stored and cared for the gun' used in the New IRA murder of journalist Lyra McKee had his bail conditions varied on Tuesday so he can move home.

Ms McKee (29) died after being she was shot while standing by a police Land Rover observing riots in the Creggan area of L'Derry on April 18, 2019.

Bookmaker Niall Sheerin, who denies two firearms offences, had his bail varied by Belfast Crown Court to allow him to move from his current address in Tyrconnell Street in the Brandywell, to Circular Road in the Creggan area of the Maiden City.

The 28-year-old, not accused of involvement in Ms McKee's death or any shooting, is charged with possessing the handgun identified as the murder weapon, a Hammerli .22 pistol, and eight rounds of ammunition with intent and under suspicious circumstances between September 2018 and June 2020.

The semi-automatic pistol, also said to have been used in four paramilitary-style punishment shootings, was discovered wrapped in bin liners in a hollow behind a telegraph pole during searches in the Ballymagroarty area of the city in June last year.

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A DNA trace found on the weapon was said to be 70 million times more likely to belong to Sheerin than anyone else, while a second trace recovered from the weapon was one million times more likely to belong to him than another individual.

However, on Tuesday, defence barrister Joe Brolly told Judge Neil Rafferty QC that there was "a very helpful forensic report ... that the trace amount of DNA is consistent with secondary transfer", and that there was "nothing linking him to the matter".

Prosecution counsel Robin Steer had suggested Sheerin's bail be varied on condition that he adheres to a specific route traveling in and out of the area in an effort to "limit" his contact with other suspects.

Mr Brolly said the proposed route "was simply unworkable .... and really not consistent with family life". The court also heard that all but one of 12 other suspects have been bailed to live "all over the city" on condition they do not associate with one and other.

Granting the application Judge Rafferty added it would be "difficult to see" how there could be any future variations. However, the judge said given the changes in Sheerin's particular case, he was satisfied the "evil or mischief" feared by the prosecution could be dealt with in the same manner as a number of co-accused.

Sheerin, who was told he must re-sign his bail, was granted the variation on condition he does not associate with or contact a number of named individuals on court papers, and he informs police when he moves home, so his tagging and reporting be moved to the new address.


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