Belfast Telegraph

Omagh bomb case against Seamus Daly is 'stale' lawyer tells court

By Alan Erwin

A "stale" case is being brought against a high-profile republican accused of murdering 29 people in the Omagh bomb atrocity, the High Court heard today.

Seamus Daly was charged on the basis of evidence police have had for 16 years, his lawyers argued.

As the prosecution confirmed it is to enlist a new telephone communications expert, defence representatives claimed he should be granted bail due to delays.

Daly faces 29 counts of murder over the August 1998 Real IRA attack.

The 44-year-old bricklayer, originally from Cullaville, Co Monaghan, but now residing in Jonesborough, Co Armagh, is also accused of causing the explosion in Omagh and possession of a bomb in the Co Tyrone market town with intent to endanger life or property.

He is further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate dissident bomb plot in Lisburn, Co Down in April that year.

No one has ever been convicted in connection with the massacre at Omagh.

But Daly, who has a previous conviction in the Irish Republic for IRA membership, has already been found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil action taken by victims' families.

A previous court was told a man named Denis O'Connor claims Daly phoned him on the day of the attack using a mobile suspected of having travelled into Omagh on the bomb run.

Cell-site analysis also allegedly links him to the earlier bomb incident at Lisburn involving a similar modus operandi and warnings.

Prosecutors claimed at that stage that he gave police a false name - that of his brother - when he was detained in April this year.

Detectives were said to have been looking for him for five years.

At the time of his arrest he provided a prepared statement denying IRA membership or any involvement in either the Lisburn attempted bombing or the attack on Omagh, whose 29 victims included the mother of unborn twins.

As the accused mounted a new bid to be released on bail today, Mr Justice Treacy was told an expert in mobile phones and cell-sites originally used by the prosecution was no longer available.

Procurement processes are underway to select a replacement from two potential candidates.

Rejecting claims of delay in advancing the case against Daly, prosecution counsel argued that it was a complex and voluminous investigation.

She disclosed that 15 Lever Arch files of material have been compiled.

An international letter of request has also been sent for everything held by the Garda from the time of Daly's original arrest back in 1999.

Pressed by the judge, she confirmed that evidence used to bring the charges has been available to police since shortly after the bombing.

The barrister insisted, though, that a new investigation team was only appointed in 2012.

But Michael O'Higgins SC, for Daly, argued that there was nothing complicated about a case centred on the alleged movement of phones during the bomb run into Omagh.

"It's a very stale case and has not been re-ignited by any new evidence," he said.

"It's all based on material supplied by the telephone companies in the immediate aftermath of the explosion and the full co-operation they extended to the RUC investigating at that time."

According to Mr O'Higgins no explanation has been given for why police and prosecuting authorities waited from 1998 until April 2014 to bring charges.

He stressed: "This isn't just a cold-case. This is the Omagh bombing.

"The idea that the original investigation didn't pull out all the stops post-1998 isn't in it.

"The impact of the explosion and the response to it is well-fixed, even at this remove, in people's minds and very understandably every single thing that could have been done was done and was done with vigour."

The barrister claimed police had taken an "unusual" step of deciding to go with the original evidence.

He added: "There's an element of unreality for the prosecution to be talking about how complex it is. They have had 16 years to get their ducks in a row." 

Adjourning the bail application, Mr Justice Treacy said he wanted to study a chronology provided by the prosecution and documents lodged by a parish priest in support of Daly's application.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph