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Lyra gun accused to face third charge

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Trial: Niall Sheerin

Trial: Niall Sheerin

Lyra McKee. Credit. Jess Lowe

Lyra McKee. Credit. Jess Lowe

The pistol cops found

The pistol cops found

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Trial: Niall Sheerin

A dissident republican accused of storing the gun police believe was used to murder writer Lyra McKee is set to face a third charge at his trial later this year.

Niall Sheerin is charged with possessing a .22 calibre Hammerli self-loading pistol, magazine and quantity of ammunition between September 2018 and June 2020.

The 29-year-old Londonderry man is also accused of possessing the same gun and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

During a brief hearing of the case at Belfast Crown Court last week the prosecution asked that a third charge of possessing a handgun without a certificate also be added to the indictment against Sheerin.

Sheerin’s barrister did not object to the application and Belfast Recorder, Judge Stephen Fowler QC, granted his approval.

When asked for a possible trial date, Sheerin’s barrister said there had been “considerable agreement” of witnesses in the case and the non-jury hearing should not last more than three to four days.

Judge Fowler listed the trial for a provisional start date of May 4. Sheerin, of Tyrconnell Street in Derry, is currently free on bail.

When Sheerin first appeared before Londonderry Magistrates Court on the charges in July 2020, a police officer detailed the DNA links they believe link him to the weapon.

The officer told the court that a DNA trace found on a Hammerli X-Esse .22 pistol recovered in searches in June of that year 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.”

He added the gun had been stolen from a registered firearms dealer in Fermanagh in 2008 and was linked to four dissident republican shootings.

The Hammerli .22 pistol and eight rounds of ammunition were discovered wrapped in bin liners in a hollow behind a telegraph pole during searches in the Ballymagroarty area of the city

Sheerin is a supporter of Saoradh, the political wing of the New IRA which fatally shot Ms McKee as she observed a riot in the Creggan area of Londonderry in April 2019.

The bookmakers employee followed hardline republican culture groups on Facebook and backs the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association, which supports dissident inmates in Northern Ireland.


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