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Friday, 11 January, 2002, 17:20 GMT
Key Omagh witness 'lied'
Dublin Special Criminal Court
Trial is taking place at Dublin Special Criminal Court
A key prosecution witness in the case of the only man charged in connection with the Omagh bombing has claimed he made his story up under police duress.

Colm Murphy, 48, from Dundalk, County Louth, denies conspiring to cause an explosion on the same weekend of the attack in August 1998.

Patrick Terence Morgan originally gave evidence last November in the trial to say that Mr Murphy borrowed his mobile telephone the day before the bombing.

Security forces later tracked calls from that phone in Northern Ireland on the day that Omagh was bombed.


I was put under pressure, they wanted evidence that I gave Colm Murphy the phone, which is not true

Patrick Morgan
Witness
But on Friday Dublin Special Criminal Court heard a letter, read out by Mr Morgan's solicitor, retracting his statement.

Mr Morgan was re-called to the witness box and said he made the first statement after Irish police pressurised him.

He told the court: "I can't sleep or live with myself for saying I gave the phone to him. I had to get it off my conscience. I told a lie."

Questioned by senior counsel Peter Charleton, Mr Morgan told the court that police officers had threatened him.

"They wanted me here (in court) to give evidence or I would be lifted again," he said.

"I was put under pressure, they wanted evidence that I gave Colm Murphy the phone, which is not true," Mr Morgan told the court.

"I did not give him the phone at all. It was in the van."

Missing

Mr Morgan told the court he had actually left the phone in a van on a Dublin building site, on the day of the bombing, and it disappeared. He did not report it missing.

Despite the new claims, he admitted that he had told the court in November he had given the phone to Mr Murphy.

When asked by Mr Charleton if he was under pressure to change his story Mr Morgan answered "no" but he did confirm that he was a second cousin of the accused.

Earlier in the proceedings an expert told the court that Mr Murphy's phone had been in contact with Mr Morgan's phone on the day of the bombing, 15 August 1998.

Agreement

Mr Charleton asked Mr Morgan: "Can you explain how your phone was calling Mr Murphy's phone on the day of the Omagh bomb?

"No," he answered.

Mr Charleton then suggested that his initial evidence, implicating Murphy, was true.

"No," he replied.

Michael O'Higgins, defending, asked Mr Morgan about his arrest in March 1999.

Mr Morgan was questioned by police at the time but released without charge.

Helicopter

During his detention officers told him they wanted evidence against Murphy, he said.

After his release he was contacted by a member of the Garda and they formed an agreement that he would falsely allege giving his mobile phone to Mr Murphy, it was claimed.

Questioned by Mr O'Higgins, Mr Morgan said that if he did not assist investigating officers "they were going to contact police and soldiers and take me in a helicopter".

He confirmed that police officers suspected that members of Mr Murphy's building team, which he worked for as a bricklayer, were "republican types".

He said he would use a company van, belonging to Mr Murphy, to take around 20 men to the building site in Dublin every day.

'Crude and inept'

His mobile phone was left in the glove compartment from which it disappeared, Mr Morgan said.

Mr Murphy had been on the site the day it disappeared, he added.

The phone was found under a seat in the van early the following week.

Summing up the defence, Mr O'Higgins accused Garda officers of a "sophisticated, albeit crude and inept" attempt to frame Mr Murphy.

The Real IRA bomb in Omagh killed 29 people, including a woman seven months pregnant with twins.

Murphy denies conspiracy to cause the explosion

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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