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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 17:08 GMT
'Fear' prevents more Omagh convictions
Colm Murphy
Colm Murphy is the only man charged over Omagh
Fear is the main reason why further convictions for the Omagh bombing are unlikely, says a BBC reporter who has investigated the case.

The BBC's John Ware, who helped make the Panorama programme "Who bombed Omagh?" which named four suspects including Colm Murphy, said key witnesses are too scared to go to court to give evidence.

A prime example, he told BBC News 24, was the decision by witness Patrick Terence Morgan to withdraw his evidence.

(Witnesses) won't come to court because they are frightened

John Ware, Panorama
Mr Morgan originally gave evidence last November in the trial to say Murphy borrowed his mobile telephone the day before the bombing.

Security forces later tracked calls from that phone in Northern Ireland on 15 August 1998, the day Omagh was bombed.

Mr Morgan later retracted his statement claiming his evidence had been made after Irish police pressurised him.

But Mr Ware believes there is another reason.

Fear factor

"He withdrew his evidence saying he had had a crisis of conscience, that he had made up the allegations in his police statements to the Irish police," he said.

"There is no evidence he did do that. This statement is based on extensive notes taken by the RUC in conversation with Mr Morgan and he gave plenty of detail.

Omagh
Twenty nine people were killed in the bombing
"The truth is of course that Mr Morgan withdrew his evidence, not because he was worried not about his conscience but about a hole appearing in his head on the border.

"That is the problem with this prosecution."

Mr Ware said Murphy was finally convicted because he had could not explain what his telephone was doing in and around Omagh at the time of the bombing and also in and around Banbridge, a link bombing, two weeks before.

In the Panorama programme, Murphy was asked why he had given his phone, and one belonging to an employee, to another man the day before the bombing.

Mobile link

Panorama also asked people who were questioned by detectives to account for their movements on the day of the bombing.

The programme also asked for details about the usage of mobile phones registered to them.

The programme named three other suspects.

The critical, missing evidential link in this case is putting identities of individuals to those telephones, said Mr Ware.

"In respect of the other three I'm certain they were involved, no doubt at all," he said.

"The police do have witnesses who will say they spoke to people using those phones those days and identify them and won't come to court because they are frightened."

Case continues

Mr Ware said the original detective work on both sides of the border was imaginative.

But he added that the Northern Ireland ombudsman said there were serious procedural deficiencies with the RUC investigation.

Mr Ware said police were still investigating the case and the situation could have been better if procedures had been followed as the ombudsman said they should have been.

"But I must say you can have all the procedural perfection in the world, it doesn't in the end encourage frightened witnesses to come to court and put their lives at risk," he added.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC's John Thorne reports from Dublin:
"Mr Murphy had been charged with conspiracy to cause the explosion in Omagh"
Click here for the full special report

Ombudsman report

Bomb trial verdict

Archive - the blast:

PANORAMA
See also:

22 Jan 02 | N Ireland
22 Jan 02 | N Ireland
09 Jan 02 | N Ireland
12 Dec 01 | N Ireland
17 Aug 98 | N Ireland
Links to more N Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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