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Republican charged with rioting on night of Lyra McKee death returned to prison after breaching bail

Christopher Gillen (Niall Carson/PA)
Christopher Gillen (Niall Carson/PA)

By Anthon McCabe

A republican charged with rioting in Londonderry on the night journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead has been returned to jail after being found to have breached his bail conditions on two occasions.

Christopher ‘Christy’ Gillen (39) appeared at a special court in Omagh on Saturday where a police officer said two plain-clothes officers saw him on December 9 smoking outside a bar-restaurant on Castle Street in Derry. A bail condition had excluded him from Derry’s cityside.

“This is a case where witnesses have been intimidated,” she said. “The exclusion zone was put in place to prevent intimidation.”

The second breach was in connection with a post on the Facebook page of Junior McDaid House, Saoradh’s Derry office. The post referred to a police search of a house. Gillen posted the comment: “Dirt.”

Gillen’s bail conditions forbade involvement in any Saoradh activity. A defence solicitor said Gillen accepted that breach.

Judge Barney McElholm found the breaches proven and remanded Gillen, of Balbane Pass, Derry, in custody until January 9 at Derry Magistrates’ Court.

In October, a High Court judge banned Gillen from any activities associated with Saoradh. The ban was imposed as Gillen was granted bail on rioting charges.

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Prosecutors claimed he threw at least six petrol bombs at police lines during the disturbances in the Creggan estate on April 18.

Four vehicles were hijacked in the unrest said to have been led by members of the New IRA. A number of shots were also fired by an unidentified gunman, one of which fatally wounded Ms McKee.

Gillen is not accused of any offences directly connected to the 29-year-old journalist’s killing. He faces charges of riotous assembly, petrol bomb offences, and the hijacking and arson of a tipper truck.

Footage obtained from an MTV documentary crew allegedly shows Gillen in Saoradh’s offices earlier that day, the High Court heard.

Later, a masked man at the scene of the rioting was dressed in matching clothing, according to the prosecution.

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