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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Omagh coroner rules on unborn twins
Omagh bombing
Omagh devastation followed misleading bomb warnings
Omagh inquest day 15

The coroner investigating the 1998 Omagh bombing has said he will press the courts to prosecute the bombers with the destruction of unborn twins.

John Leckey, who is hearing evidence at the inquest into the deaths of 29 people who died in the Real IRA car-bomb in the County Tyrone town, had been asked by the family of the two unborn girls to also make an official finding about them.

The coroner said he had no jurisdiction over the twins being carried by Avril Monaghan, 30, who died along with her daughter, Maura, 20 months and her mother Mary Grimes.

But Mr Leckey said he was in no doubt that 31 people were killed in the bomb and that he would write to the Director of Public Prosecutions to ask him to consider charging anyone apprehended for the bombing with child destruction.

'Father's tragedy'

Mrs Monaghan was 34-weeks pregnant with the twins, when she was killed in the blast.

Coroner John Leckey:
John Leckey regrets he could not count unborn twins in death toll
The inquest has already heard they were "viable and uninjured" in the blast which killed their mother.

The twins' father, joiner Michael Monaghan, attended the inquest, sitting in Omagh Leisure Centre, to hear the result of his family's request for the twins to be formally recognised, so that the final death toll of the dissident republican bombing would be counted as 31, instead of 29.

His solicitor, Barry Fox, said Mr Monaghan did not attend the inquests of his wife, daughter and mother-in-law last week, but that "because of his own belief and the way he looks upon the unborn twins he felt it imperative that this argument should be put before you".

As far as I am concerned 31 persons died, but for legal reasons I can only claim jurisdiction over 29

Coroner John Leckey
He said his client had experienced a "tremendous tragedy" and said: "I would urge you to ameliorate the grief which he has suffered."

Mr Leckey said he was sorry he had no jurisdiction over stillbirths.

He said: "As far as I am concerned 31 persons died, but for legal reasons I can only claim jurisdiction over 29. As far as I am concerned they were living, healthy, babies, though unborn."

He also expressed his sympathy to Mr Monaghan and "the hope that the wicked people who were responsible for the tragedy would be apprehended and will be punished by the courts".

Only one man has been charged in connection with the bombing. He is waiting for his trial in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Fox said he believed Mr Leckey's measure would "go some way towards easing Mr Monaghan's mind".

Police questioning delayed

Meanwhile, the inquest has heard that Northern Ireland's chief constable will not object to police officers being asked about their actions on the day of the bombing.

Because of misleading telephone warnings from the bombers, about the location of the 500lb device, people were moved towards it the minutes before the blast.

The inquest heard on Thursday that an RUC constable who gave evidence to the inquest had not been able to return to work after his cross-examination by a solicitor for one of the bereaved families.

Some of the victims' families have expressed concern about the line of questioning which has been put to police officers.

Further questioning of RUC officers has been delayed to allow for legal deliberations on the scope of the inquiry.

The Irish police commissioner has decided not to send any of his officers to give evidence, because he said it may prejudice future prosecutions.

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