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Tuesday, 3 October, 2000, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Real IRA 'fully to blame' for Omagh
Omagh bomb site
Bomb site was swept for minute fragments of the device
Omagh inquest: Day 17

The coroner at the Omagh inquest has said the Real IRA were fully responsible for all the consequences of the bombing of the town in August 1998.

Speaking on Tuesday, at the end of the inquest into the deaths of 28 of the victims, John Leckey said he shared the hope of the bereaved families that those responsible for the bombing wouldl be brought before the courts and punished.

He said that hearing evidence about the deaths in Omagh during the last four weeks had been an "emotional experience" which he would never forget.

The evidence had often been unpleasant and distressing, but it would have been wrong to "sanitise the horror perpetrated by the Real IRA," he said.

Tribute to police

Mr Leckey also paid tribute to the members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who were on the scene when the bomb exploded.

Coroner John Leckey:
John Leckey: Police who responded were men and women with emotions
He said they were not "Robocops, but real men and women with feelings and emotions".

He said the dissident republican Real IRA had tried to blame the police for the casualties, but the "terrorists were responsible for all that happened", he said.

Many of those killed and injured had been moved towards the car-bomb left in the busy shopping street, Market Street, after misleading warnings were telephoned by the bombers.

Mr Lecky said that their self-serving statement after the explosion had been shown to be untrue.

The inquest, which was held at Omagh leisure centre, had heard details about the worst single act of violence in 30 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Mr Leckey said the inquest may close a chapter in the story of Omagh, but it would take a trial and convictions to close the book of the story of the dreadful events of Omagh.

'Personal tragedies'

He delivered his findings on the deaths of all but one of the victims.

The case of the 29th victim - James Victor Barker, aged 12, - will be dealt with on Thursday.

Unlike inquests in England and Wales, which deliver verdicts such as accidental death, in Northern Ireland they just confirm the cause of death.

Mr Leckey said that if he was empowered to make a verdict, he would be in no doubt that it would be unlawful killing.

In a brief statement he said the deceased died from injuries as the result of a car bomb explosion in Market Street, Omagh, and that the Real IRA had subsequently accepted responsibility for that.

He then gave brief details about the victims and their injuries.

In concluding his findings, Mr Leckey said he did not want anyone to think that "it was just a matter of reading these out".

"Each one of these deaths represents a great personal tragedy for the family concerned," he said.

Mr Leckey's findings come a day after the police officer leading the investigation into the bombing said he knew who had planned and carried out the explosion.

RUC Acting Assistant Chief Constable Eric Anderson said only one person had been charged in connection with the bombing.

But he said the investigation was "active and ongoing," with a large volume of work still to be done two years after the atrocity.

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