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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 15:24 GMT
Phone logs linked to bombing
Devastation in Omagh
Omagh's devastated main street
By the BBC's Annita McVeigh

It was the 15th of August 1998, a busy Saturday afternoon in Omagh, when the bomb exploded.

The town's streets were packed with young and old, Catholic and Protestant, local people and tourists.

Twenty-nine men, women and children as well as unborn twins were killed - the biggest loss of life in a single incident during Northern Ireland's Troubles.

More than 200 people were injured, some of them maimed or scarred for life.

The device had been packed into a stolen car and left in the County Tyrone town by the Real IRA, dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.

Conflicting information

Telephone warnings gave conflicting information about the location of the device and when it was due to go off.

One said the car was parked outside Omagh's courthouse, but another claimed it was some distance away and unwittingly, people were moved towards the bomb.

By the end of the year, police involved in the massive investigation on both sides of the border said they had identified the bombers.

Intelligence was one thing - getting evidence to convict was another.

Colm Murphy appearing in court in Dublin
Colm Murphy had denied the charges
Then in February 1999, Colm Murphy, a 49-year-old publican and builder from County Louth in the Irish Republic, was arrested.

He was charged with conspiracy to cause an explosion, which he denied.

The two key planks of the prosecution's case were a confession from Murphy which he said was fabricated, and evidence in relation to two mobile phones.

In the BBC's Panorama programme 'Who Bombed Omagh?', Murphy was asked why he had given his phone, and one belonging to an employee, to another man the day before the bombing.

Murphy said he had not given them to anyone.

Detailed log

Police, however, had built up a detailed log of calls made to and from the phones in the Omagh area around the time of the explosion.

It was a key part of the prosecution's case that Murphy knew the phones were to be used for illegal activity.

He was described by a judge in the case as a "republican terrorist of long standing."

Murphy, Mr Justice Barr said, had been "convicted of a series of offences of this nature in both this state and the United States and having served jail sentences."

These included convictions for firearms offences and IRA membership in the Irish Republic.

He was also sentenced in the United States for attempting to buy M60 machine guns for shipment back to Ireland, for use by the republican terror group the INLA.

The detective who initially led the Omagh investigation, Eric Anderson, said the guilty verdict was "a great result".

Now retired, he said he was delighted for the people of Omagh and his counterparts in the Irish police.

Aidan Gallagher
Michael Gallagher's son Aidan was killed
Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the explosion, said he and the other families who lost loved ones can not rest yet.

He said: "There are others who were involved in Omagh who have not been brought before the courts.

"It will certainly not end at this court case. This is only the beginning, but we hope it is the beginning of the end."

The bereaved and injured are raising money through the Omagh Victims' Legal Fund to pursue other suspects through the civil courts.

Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
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