Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 11:41 UK

Omagh families' harrowing ordeal

By Freya McClements
BBC News

Soldiers look on at the scene of the Omagh bomb from behind a police cordon
Twenty-nine people died when the car bomb exploded in Market Street

In the absence of a criminal conviction, six families of victims of the Omagh bomb took the unprecedented step of suing the men they believed were behind the atrocity.

The first purpose of a civil action is to establish responsibility.

This must be determined according to a "balance of probabilities" rather than "beyond reasonable doubt", the requirement in criminal law.

Once responsibility is established, it must be demonstrated to the court how the actions of those responsible have affected the families in order to gauge the level of compensation.

This resulted in some of the most harrowing testimony ever heard from the families of Omagh bomb victims.

Godfrey Wilson, whose 15-year-old daughter Lorraine died in the bomb, fought back tears as he told the court he had contemplated suicide.

"I drove to a local country road and drove like a lunatic hoping a tractor would come out in front of me," he said.

I drove to a local country road and drove like a lunatic hoping a tractor would come out in front of me
Godfrey Wilson

Mr Wilson spoke of seeing his daughter's body in a temporary morgue set up in the aftermath of the bomb.

"She had head injuries. Her right eye was missing and there was a tear on the other eye. I took out a tissue and soaked it up and put it in my breast pocket.

"I still have it, that's the very little I have left of her," he said.

His wife Anne was described in court as "a shell of a woman".

Michael Gallagher lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the bomb.

The court heard he had suffered "complex mental health problems" after Aidan's death.

"That day certainly changed me, and probably everyone else who had any serious involvement in it."

His wife Patsy told how the bomb had changed her husband from a loving family man to someone who was consumed by the fight for justice and drank alcohol in order to cope.

"He never drank very much before, maybe at a wedding or something.

"Then he was on tablets but he'd go into fits of temper so he stopped taking them, and then he turned to alcohol."

Respondents in the Omagh civil action
Michael McKevitt
Liam Campbell
Seamus Daly
Seamus McKenna
Colm Murphy

Stanley McComb, whose wife Anne was killed in the bomb, now suffers from chronic depression.

"I don't go to bed any more because I don't want to wake up to nothing in the morning.

"I tried to keep going but it's so lonely without Anne.

"That is when my hatred started.

"I hate those people so much and I never hated anyone in my life, but every day since that day I have been so angry.

"I'm sorry, but that's just the way I feel."

Paul Radford told the court of the guilt he suffered because he spent time helping at Omagh hospital, oblivious to the fact that his 16-year-old brother Alan was dead.

"I can't get it out of my mind that when I was helping someone else, I wasn't there for my brother.

"I find that hard to live with."

Psychiatrist Dr Nicholas Cooling told the court that in his opinion none of the family members were likely to fully recover.

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