Belfast Telegraph

Omagh bomb appeals dismissed

By Alan Erwin

Two republicans lost their appeals today to being found liable for the Omagh bombing.

Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were seeking to overturn a second verdict against them of being responsible for the Real IRA atrocity.

But the Court of Appeal in Belfast dismissed their challenges after rejecting all grounds on which they had attempted to clear their names.

Both men will now be pursued over a £1.6 million damages award made against them and two other suspects following a landmark civil action.

Twenty nine people, including the mother of unborn twins, were killed in the August 1998 outrage. Hundreds more were badly injured.

No-one has ever been convicted of carrying out the bombing in a criminal court.

But relatives of some victims brought an unprecedented compensation claim against those they suspected of being connected.

Murphy and Daly faced a retrial after their initial successful appeals against being held responsible in an initial ruling in 2009.

Two other men, convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and fellow dissident republican Liam Campbell, failed to have the findings against them overturned.

In March, following the trial, a High Court judge decided on the balance of probabilities that Daly called Mr O'Connor on the day of the bombing on one of the phones allegedly supplied by Murphy.

Lawyers for the two appellants claimed they were denied a fair hearing.

Murphy's legal team also contended he should not have been held liable based on his failure to testify.

Ruling on the appeal today, Lord Justice Girvan said adverse inference could be drawn from the failure by either man to give any evidence.

Murphy's claim that he did not testify due to his lack of faith in the judicial system was "entirely justifiably regarded as specious and wholly unconvincing".

None of the Omagh bomb victims' relatives were in court to hear the verdict.  

Dealing with Murphy's challenge to claims he supplied the phones used in the bomb run, Lord Justice Girvan identified a series of factors against him.

He said: "The presence of the phone in the area at precisely the relevant times; the route of movement of the phone; the wholly unconvincing lack of any explanation as to how the phone came to be where it was; the effective presentation of an implausible case that the phone had simply disappeared from his house to an unknown person for an unknown purpose and then mysteriously reappeared in the house; the fact that such an implausible case was made out which led to the inference that Murphy was lying and doing so for no good reason; the fact that he led no evidence and suggested no case that he was covering up for someone else close to him; the fact that he must have had evidence to give about the matter and refused to do so and then put forward specious grounds to justify his refusal to explain the evidence available to him, all together produce a sufficiently strong case to satisfy the onus of proof, applying the heightened scrutiny test applicable in the light of the grave nature of the plaintiffs' charge."

Daly's appeal focused on the evidence of Denis O'Connor, who took a phone call less than half an hour after the blast from a man he named as Seamus Healy.

Lawyers for Daly argued it was wrong to find that Mr O'Connor was actually referring to their client.

But Lord Justice Girvan rejected their contention that this evidence did not implicate Daly.

The judge held that what was presented to the court, and unchallenged by Daly in cross-examination, involved clear evidence that Daly and Healey were the same person.

A further ground of appeal by Daly, centred on claims that the trial judge's verdict betrayed a cognitive bias, was also rejected.

The judge added that Daly's subsequent admission of guilt to the charge of the Real IRA must play into the wider question of whether the plaintiffs had made good their case.

"Where a person by confession accepts he subscribes to the aims and means of an unlawful organisation which is prepared to commit terrorist outrages and has not disavowed any intent to carry on serious terrorist activities it becomes very much less unlikely that he could have been involved in the past in assisting such an organisation," he said. 

"We conclude that the judge was entitled to put this plea of guilty into the scales in determining whether the plaintiffs' case had been proved."

He confirmed that neither Murphy nor Daly had persuaded the court that the trial judge was wrong to conclude that the Omagh relatives had proved their case on the balance of probabilities.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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