Sister of ex-IRA man John Brady found dead in police cell disputes suggestion he killed himself
An inquest which will determine whether a former IRA prisoner found hanging in a cell in a Londonderry police station died by suicide - something his family strenuously contests - has opened in Omagh Courthouse.
John Brady (40) from Strabane died on October 3, 2009, the day after he was taken into custody after he was arrested in connection with an alleged altercation with his brother-in-law, John Kennedy, outside a school in the town.
Mr Kennedy, who was due to give evidence, was not present, despite efforts by the Coroner's Office to find him.
In a statement Mr Kennedy made to police on the day of the alleged altercation he described Mr Brady as "a dangerous man".
Mr Kennedy stated Mr Brady started a fight with him outside the primary school and told him: "I am going to shoot you when I get out of prison" before adding, "he is a dangerous man, I am in fear for my life."
In the same statement, Mr Kennedy said the fight "lasted around five minutes" and that Mr Brady "punched him eight times" which was contrary to evidence given by witnesses also outside the school. These included Catherine Gallagher and Briege Brady, who described the altercation as a "scuffle" that lasted less than a minute and that it was Mr Kennedy who struck Mr Brady.
Mr Brady's sister, Laura Brady, told the inquest that another brother Ben called with her at her work and told her about the altercation with Mr Kennedy, who is married to their sister. She decided to go to her mother's house where Mr Brady was staying at weekends while on parole.
Ms Brady explained her brother had been released every weekend from May 2009. The family was hoping his permanent release would be "before Christmas" and he planned to "buy a car and move to Ballybofey in Co Donegal" to make a fresh start.
She said when she spoke to her brother John at their mother's house, he told her about the "scuffle" with Mr Kennedy.
He also told her he had alerted the Prison Service immediately about it and, following their advice, contacted the PSNI in Strabane.
Ms Brady said her brother told police he did not want to press charges against Mr Kennedy "because it was a family matter", although he also contacted a solicitor.
She said police called to her mother's house shortly after 8.30pm in three armoured Land Rovers with a helicopter flying overhead and arrested Mr Brady. She said her brother was "entirely compliant" with police during his arrest.
She went to Strand Road PSNI station in Derry with clothes for her brother the following morning, hoping to speak with him. She was told the custody suite was busy and her brother was being interviewed, so she left.
Ms Brady said she received a call from her brother's Belfast solicitor John Finucane at 5pm that day, October 3, asking her to meet him in Strabane where he told her that her brother had hung himself.
She replied: "That's not true, definitely not. I was shocked, John was the last person that would take his own life.
"His mindset was one of absolute positivity. That (suicide) was unbelievable - not in his nature. He was such an upbeat person."
Ms Brady told the coroner that her brother had been in and out of jail "most of his adult life" and that the thought of going back to jail "didn't bother him".
In addition to determining whether Mr Brady took his own life, the inquest will also seek to unravel why Mr Brady was "unmonitored" while he was in Strand Road Police Station and will also probe the conduct of a number of police officers at the time of his death.
The inquest continues.