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'Bookmaker Niall Sheerin's DNA found on Lyra McKee gun'

Saoradh fan left traces on weapon's slide, court told

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Niall Sheerin

Niall Sheerin

The gun used in Lyra McKee's murder

The gun used in Lyra McKee's murder

Niall Sheerin

This is the dissident republican whose DNA police believe is linked to the New IRA gun used to murder Lyra McKee.

Niall Sheerin is a supporter of Saoradh, the political wing of the terrorist gang which fatally shot the journalist during a riot in the Creggan area of Londonderry last year.

The 27-year-old is a follower of hardline republican culture groups on Facebook and backs the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, which supports dissident inmates in Northern Ireland.

The former runner, who works in a bookmakers, is charged with possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The father-of-two, from Tyrconnell Street in the Brandywell area of the city, denied the offences when he appeared via videolink at Derry Magistrates' Court last week.

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The gun used in Lyra McKee's murder

The gun used in Lyra McKee's murder

The gun used in Lyra McKee's murder

An officer told the court that a DNA trace found on a Hammerli X-Esse .22 pistol recovered in searches last month was 70 million times more likely to belong to Sheerin than anyone else.

He added that a second trace recovered from the weapon was one million times more likely to belong to Sheerin than another individual.

The traces were found on the slide of the semi-automatic gun, which is used to open the chamber when loading and unloading.

"It is not just the DNA on the gun, but also the fact where it was on the gun," an officer told the hearing.

"We believe he was actively involved in possessing, in storing, in loading and unloading the gun and in preparing it for a shooting and unloading it after the shooting."

The firearm, a quantity of ammunition and a command wire explosive device were discovered during an extensive police operation focusing on fields near the Ballymagroarty estate in the city.

The officer told the court the gun had been stolen from a registered firearms dealer in Fermanagh in 2008 and was linked to four dissident republican shootings.

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Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee

PA

Lyra McKee

He said Sheerin, who has convictions for public order offences, told officers during interviews that he was "at a loss" as to how his DNA came to be on the gun.

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Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee

PA

Lyra McKee

The officer also said a number of witnesses to Ms McKee's murder were still afraid to come forward because of the risk of reprisals by the New IRA.

District Judge Stephen Keown granted Sheerin bail as two other men charged in relation to Ms McKee's murder were released on bail and living in the city.

But he ordered him to live at an address outside the city's 30mph zone and to stay away from the Saoradh offices on Chamberlain Street.

It came just under two weeks after Paul McIntyre, who is charged with killing Ms McKee, was granted bail.

The 52-year-old, from Kinnego Park in the city, is also charged with possession of a firearm and membership of a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA. He denies all the offences.

Belfast Telegraph