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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Omagh bombing trial is adjourned
A court artist's drawing of Sean Hoey
Sean Hoey made a brief appearance at Belfast Crown Court
The trial of a man accused of the murders of 29 people in the Omagh bombing has been adjourned.

The Omagh car bombing on 15 August 1998 was the worst single terrorist atrocity in Northern Ireland. A woman pregnant with twins was among those killed.

Sean Gerard Hoey, 37, an electrician of Molly Road, Jonesborough, Armagh, has denied all 58 charges against him.

The case was stopped after a defence lawyer said he was unwell. No date has been set for the trial to continue.

Senior defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC told trial judge Mr Justice Weir: "I am unwell and appear before you against medical advice."

He had sought an adjournment until 18 September but the judge said he did not feel it would be appropriate to do so.

Agreeing to delay the trial, Mr Justice Weir said it was "a most unfortunate turn of events," at which he was "disappointed" at not being kept informed, except informally, of the situation.

He said that if it became clear Mr Pownall would not be well enough to continue in the case and if new senior counsel had to be instructed, the court should be kept informed.

Families

Mr Pownall added that there could be up to 500 witnesses called in the case, but that many of them could be agreed without them being called to the witness box.

Families and friends of some of the victims, who had travelled from Omagh by bus for the first day of the case, said they were disappointed the trial had not gone ahead as planned.

Mr Hoey faces 58 charges including five other bombings, four bomb conspiracies, and six murder conspiracies.

The case before Mr Justice Weir in Belfast is expected to be one of the last major non-jury trials in Northern Ireland. It is expected to last for about 14 weeks.

Victims' families have requested the provision of a videolink system in Omagh during the court proceedings.

The Court Service said the judge had asked the court administration to look into what facilities might be provided.

"It was accepted that these could not be put in place by Wednesday," it said in a statement.

"Options are currently being investigated by Northern Ireland Court Service officials."

The accused has been in custody for about three years.

He is the only person to be charged with murder in connection with the bombing.


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