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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK


Paper 'reveals' IRA bomb suspect

The newspaper quotes from secret police documents

A Northern Ireland man has been named by a local newspaper as the "prime suspect" in the IRA bombing of Manchester three years ago.

The BBC's John Thorne: "Detectives were reported to have watched the suspect return to the scene of the devastation"
The Manchester Evening News says the 31-year-old man has visited the city several times since the explosion but has not been arrested.

Greater Manchester Police will not comment on the allegation but they say their investigation, the longest thay have yet undertaken, is continuing.

[ image: The bomb devastated the city centre]
The bomb devastated the city centre
The IRA bomb, concealed in a lorry, exploded outside the city centre Marks and Spencer store in June 1996, injuring more than 200 people.

It was the biggest bomb detonated by the IRA on British soil. It rocked the city centre and caused £500m worth of damage.

Wednesday's front page story quotes from confidential police documents and Special Branch sources involved in the investigation.

'The public should know'

The paper's editor, Paul Horrocks, defended the report.

"It is right that the public should know who was involved as a suspect," he said.

"Clearly if a trial takes place or were to have had taken place that information would have come into the public domain. It is our understanding that that is very unlikely to happen.

"We know the Crown Prosecution Service have said that they believed when they looked at the file there were grounds to arrest this man but not enough evidence to proceed to a trial."

The question of evidence for prosecution has been seized upon by the leader of Manchester City Council.

"There does seem to be at least a clash of views between the Crown Prosecution Service and the police about whether that was the case or not," Councillor Richard Leese said.

"If the opportunity has been lost then certainly I would be very upset about that and I'm sure the people of Manchester would be very upset about that."

Mobile phone evidence

The report says detectives identified their prime suspect from evidence surrounding the use of a mobile telephone codenamed Digit Six.

It says that seconds after the lorry was parked by two men in Corporation Street, the phone was used to report to an IRA quartermaster in Ireland that the mission had been completed.

It is alleged that the mobile phone was owned by the 31-year-old man.

The Manchester Evening News reports that Greater Manchester Police has identified six other people associated with the explosion.

It alleges that official police files show that the prime suspect visited Manchester several times since the IRA bombing and even surveyed the devastating damage.

He was watched by detectives but not arrested.

A spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "People cannot be charged on suspicion. We have to have solid evidence that would stand up in court."

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