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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 17:11 GMT
Dissident guilty of Omagh bomb plot
A dissident republican has been found guilty of plotting to cause the Omagh bombing - the worst single atrocity in 30 years of violence.

Father-of-four Colm Murphy, 49, was the only person charged in connection with the bombing of the County Tyrone town on 15 August 1998.

The blast - later admitted by the dissident republican Real IRA - killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, and injured hundreds.


The accused is a republican terrorist of long standing

Mr Justice Barr

Murphy, a builder and publican orginally from south Armagh, denied one charge of conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property between August 13 and 16, 1998.

However, three judges at Dublin's Special non-jury Criminal Court delivered a guilty verdict on Tuesday afternoon. He will be sentenced on Friday morning.

In a lengthy judgement, Mr Justice Barr said: "The accused is a republican terrorist of long standing, having been convicted of a series of offences of this nature in both this state and the United States and having served jail sentences."

The judges also rejected a retraction of evidence by Murphy's second cousin Terence Morgan.

Murphy, who now lives in Dundalk, County Louth, showed no reaction as the verdict was delivered. The conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Murphy has previous convictions for IRA membership and gun-running.

Michael Gallagher, a spokesman for the Omagh victims' families and who lost his son, Aidan, in the bombing, said the verdict was a "defining moment for the campaign and for justice".

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher: "Defining moment"

"I am very pleased that we have finally got a conviction," he said.

"I hope that this means that the others responsible will be brought to justice and lift this burden off our shoulders."

The prosecution case against Murphy depended on two main planks - admissions he made in custody and mobile phone evidence.

During the 25-day trial, the court heard he lent two mobile phones to an associate of a suspected high-ranking figure in the Real IRA planning the attack.

It was said Murphy's phone, and that of his second cousin Terence Morgan, were tracked travelling from County Louth to Omagh and back again on the day of the bombing.

Discredited witnesses

After claiming Murphy asked to borrow his mobile phone because his own was "on the blink", Mr Morgan withdrew the evidence on the penultimate day of the trial.


I am very pleased that we have finally got a conviction

Michael Gallagher
Victim's father

He said Irish police pressurised him into making the allegations and said he had actually lost the phone over the weekend before finding it in his van the following Monday.

A defence application to have the case thrown out was rejected, despite a ruling that two detectives - Liam Donnelly and John Fahy - fabricated evidence against Murphy.

They were described as "discredited witnesses" after it was ruled they added details to a statement and made alterations.

Senior defence counsel Michael O'Higgins was extremely critical of police interviews with Murphy at the time of his arrest in February 1999.

He said the two discredited officers "could not have acted alone in the fabrication" and said expert evidence had shown "huge swathes of time unaccounted for" in the interviews.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Denis Murray
"The Irish police say this is a significant milestone in the investigation"
The BBC's John Thorne at the Special Criminal Court
"It was the single most atrocious catastrophe of 30 years of the troubles"
Michael Gallacher's son was killed in the explosion
"There's a message that people can't get away with what they've done"
The BBC's Panorama reporter, John Ware
"The difficulty is persuading witnesses who have given evidence to the police... to come to court"
Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
See also:

09 Jan 02 | N Ireland
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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