Prosecutors have introduced a fresh claim about a man accused of murdering journalist Lyra McKee to bolster their weak case against him, a court has been told.
A defence barrister for Paul McIntyre, 52, said a claim that his client “escorted” the gunman to the Londonderry street corner where the fatal shots were fired had been made in a bid to sustain a charge of murder by way of joint enterprise.
Making submissions during bail proceedings at Belfast High Court, Mark Mulholland QC said the contention had only been aired for the first time on the opening day of the hearing on Monday.
He questioned why it had not been made when McIntyre twice appeared before a district judge in Derry last month charged with the killing.
High Court judge Mrs Siobhan Keegan is presiding over an appeal by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) against a decision by the Derry magistrate to grant bail to McIntyre.
Ms McKee, 29, was shot dead by dissident republicans while observing a riot in Derry’s Creggan area last April. An extremist group styling itself the New IRA claimed responsibility.
Police and prosecutors do not believe McIntyre was the gunman, but claim mobile phone footage shows him working with the killer on the night, taking him to the firing spot, picking up spent bullet shells and then fleeing the scene together.
Mr Mulholland said only the allegation around collecting cartridges was put forward by prosecutors at Derry Magistrates’ Court in February.
He said the further claim about “escorting” the gunman to the shooting scene had been “introduced” because prosecutors knew that a joint enterprise charge required proof of prior knowledge of a crime.
He reiterated his insistence that the masked man in the video clip was not his client.
The barrister said that, even if it was proved that McIntyre was the individual filmed, the footage did not show him escorting the gunman to the scene or indeed leaving with him.
He said it was also “impossible” to determine from the clip whether he had picked up bullet cases.
Mr Mulholland said the contention that his client was a secondary party to the murder was “highly speculative”.
“It doesn’t cross the Rubicon in terms of the evidential nexus necessary,” he said.
Dressed in a dark green top, McIntyre, from Kinnego Park in Derry, watched proceedings via video-link from Maghaberry high-security prison. He has been kept in custody pending the outcome of the PPS appeal.
Members of Ms McKee’s family, some visibly upset, observed the hearing from the public gallery.
PPS barrister Robin Steer insisted McIntyre did escort the gunman – and by so doing demonstrated he had knowledge of what was planned.
“The prosecution is saying this is a case where the applicant has escorted a gunman to a corner and is then bending down and collecting what appear, the prosecution says, to be cartridge cases,” he said.
During Tuesday morning’s hearing, Mr Mulholland rejected a prosecution claim that McIntyre would interfere with witnesses if released.
He addressed concerns raised about intimidatory dissident republican graffiti that has appeared in the Creggan area warning people not to give evidence.
Mr Mulholland branded the graffiti “deplorable” but said it was not reason in itself to keep McIntyre in custody.
“It’s a deplorable act and by reason of that there could be a rush to justice,” he said.
“But, particularly with identification cases, there could also be a rush to injustice.”
The barrister also questioned why prosecutors had revealed the names of several witnesses during submissions on Monday when police had given a pledge to anyone coming forward that their anonymity would be protected.
At the close of the hearing, Mrs Justice Keegan asked the barristers for further written submissions and indicated she would give a ruling on bail by the end of the week.