Belfast Telegraph

Man facing murder trial refused bail to attend daughter’s first communion

Although a European Arrest Warrant was issued, it was challenged, reaching the European Court of Justice (stock photo)
Although a European Arrest Warrant was issued, it was challenged, reaching the European Court of Justice (stock photo)

By Michael Donnelly

A man extradited from the Republic to face a murder trial has been refused bail to return to Dublin for his daughter's first communion.

Francis Lanigan, who lived under an assumed name in the Republic for 14 years, had fought an unsuccessful six-year legal battle not to be returned to Northern Ireland.

The 55-year-old former west Belfast man is accused of the May 1998 murder of John Stephen Knocker, who was shot dead in the car park of the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

He is also accused of possession of a 9mm Browning pistol said to have been used in the shooting.

Defence lawyer Barry Gibson said Lanigan's brother was prepared to lodge a cash surety in court, and to travel with him to Dublin and to remain with him over the weekend during the family celebration.

Mr Gibson, while acknowledging that Lanigan had absented himself, fleeing to the Republic and contesting his extradition, said he felt "his life was very much under threat at the time".

However, he said Lanigan had previously been on bail for over three years and had shown he could honour bail conditions and did not "flee when matters were coming to a head".

Crown lawyer Robin Steer said Lanigan had absconded and had been living under an assumed name for some 14 years, obtaining a driving licence, bank account and national insurance number.

When eventually arrested, he fought his extradition, claiming that as a republican he would not get a fair trial.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Colton said there was a clear history were Lanigan had absconded and obtained a new identity, not only in name, but also with a bank account and tax and national insurance, "a sophisticated attempt at evasion".

Mr Justice Colton added that he could not ignore his previous history, pointing to the very real risk of his absconding again, and said that while in the Republic, the court would have no supervision over him or his bail.

A previous court had heard that Lanigan's days on the run, living and working in Dublin as self-employed barber Ciaran McCrory, came to an end with his arrest in January 2013 after a DNA test on a coffee cup seized by an undercover Garda detective established his true identity.

Although a European Arrest Warrant was issued, it was challenged, reaching the European Court of Justice.

During multiple challenges, Lanigan claimed his life would be at risk from loyalist and republican paramilitaries if extradited, and that on the night of Mr Knocker's shooting, he was actually the target.

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