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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 18:39 GMT 19:39 UK
Tears shed as Omagh trial begins
By Denis Murray
BBC News, Belfast

A court artist's drawing of Sean Hoey
Sean Hoey denies 58 charges
Finally, then, the trial has begun of the only person to be charged with murder in connection with the Omagh bombing in 1998, in which 29 people and unborn twins died.

Sean Gerard Hoey, aged 37, from south Armagh, denies a total of 58 charges, including 29 counts of murder.

On the day the trial was due to begin some weeks ago, defence counsel, Orlando Pownall QC said he had been ill, and asked for an adjournment, which was granted by the judge, Mr Justice Reg Weir. It is a non-jury trial, with a single judge.

The case was opened by Gordon Kerr QC, who said the Omagh bombing was horrific and devastating. He said those who escaped physical injury suffered lasting trauma.

'Difficulty sleeping'

Arriving at court, Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden died in the bombing, said he had had difficulty sleeping the night before.

When all 29 names were read out by Mr Kerr in court, some of the relatives in the public gallery were in tears.

Sean Hoey wore a fawn cord jacket and a striped, open-necked shirt.

Before the hearing began, he talked to his defence QC from the dock, and smiled.

The prosecution opening of the case by Mr Kerr lasted about two hours, and involved maps and photographs of a series of bomb and mortar attacks in 1998.

It was, perhaps, a surprisingly short opening by the Crown, given that it is such a complex case, expected to last several months.

The evidence will suggest that he contemplated the use of the devices in such a way that injury up to and including death would occur and agreed to that
Gordon Kerr QC

Mr Kerr told the court that the prosecution would say both DNA and fibre evidence connecting the defendant to the series of attacks would show his involvement in them and that "the totality of the evidence will persuade the court of his criminal involvement in the connected series of explosions".

Mr Kerr went on to say: "The prosecution case is that Hoey was a participant in the series of explosions. The evidence connects him to devices used against both security forces and civilians.

"The evidence will suggest that he contemplated the use of the devices in such a way that injury up to and including death would occur and agreed to that."

He argued the evidence would "reinforce support for the proposition that the same person was involved in the construction of the 1998" devices "including the Omagh bomb".

There is one unusual aspect to the trial. As Omagh is about 75 miles from Belfast, relatives of the victims argued that a video link in the town would help them see the proceedings, without a 150-mile daily round trip.

Mr Justice Weir said this was "an exceptional measure", and that the proceedings relayed to Omagh College would be treated as an extension of the court's public gallery, and subject to the same rules.

'Shortcomings' in Omagh evidence
25 Sep 06 |  Northern Ireland

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