The alleged leader of the Real IRA was lured into the eye of a garda surveillance unit by an FBI spy as officers followed his movements in the aftermath of the Omagh bombing, a court heard today.
A landmark civil case over the 1998 atrocity heard convicted terror boss Micheal McKevitt and David Rupert, who infiltrated the group, met at a Dundalk housing estate as officers watched on.
A member of the National Surveillance Unit told the groundbreaking case, which was hearing evidence at a District Court sitting in Dublin, that spotting McKevitt at a possible meeting was a good day’s work.
Detective Sergeant Thomas Finbarr Healey said he saw the pair talk for five minutes in the garden of a house in Oakland Park before bidding their last farewells on February 18 2001.
The garda, the first witness to give evidence since the case moved to the Dublin, said he recorded what he saw on hand-held recorder and copied them to a personal computer, but had not kept a copy of either.
He also told Kieran Vaughan QC, junior counsel for McKevitt, that he did not video or photograph the meeting as it was dark and that although he had 25 years’ experience, had paid no attention to what clothes the suspected terror boss was wearing as he knew his identity.
Mr Vaughan, who disputed the allegation, asked the officer if he had any evidence to support his testimony.
“Any time you got Michael McKevitt at a meeting was a good day’s work,” replied Mr Healey.
“You have my direct evidence, that’s all.”
Mr Healey told the court the men stood in the garden with an unidentified man before a car took the FBI agent away.
He said that looking back, he believed Rupert lured McKevitt outside for the gardaí.
“I think Mr Rupert was being very good and lured them out the door,” he said.
“I often wonder, did he create the opportunity for us? People don’t usually hang around and just talk.”
Mr Healey said that maybe McKevitt was trying to impress the visitor from the US and walked outside out of common courtesy and manners.
“He did lure him out,” he added again.
The bombing, the worst atrocity during the conflict in the north, killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.
Hundreds more were injured when the Real IRA bombed the Co Tyrone town on a busy Saturday afternoon in August 1998.
The action, taken by six of the families affected, moved to Dublin under the Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 of May 28 2001 on cooperation between the courts of the member states in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters.
Although nobody has been convicted for the atrocity, named on the lawsuit are McKevitt, the man said to be his number two, Liam Campbell, and Colm Murphy, Seamus McKenna and Seamus Daly.
All deny any involvement.