Man convicted but later cleared of Omagh bombing charges denies putting assets beyond reach of families

A man convicted and later cleared on appeal of involvement in the 1998 Omagh bombing has denied in the High Court he has put several of his assets beyond the reach of the families of the bomb victims.

Former building contractor, Colm Murphy (65), of Plaster, Mount Pleasant, Dundalk, Co Louth, was being cross examined in proceedings by the relatives aimed at identifying assets which Mr Murphy holds so that a st£1.6m judgment against him can be satisfied.

The relatives obtained the judgment against Mr Murphy and three others in the Belfast High Court.

In their efforts to find what assets Mr Murphy holds, the relatives sought to examine him and his former wife Anne Murphy. Following those examinations, and questions raised by that evidence, Mr Murphy had to return to court on Thursday to answer further questions.

During an hour and a half long cross examination by John O’Donnell SC, for the relatives, Mr Murphy denied he had deliberately put a number of assets beyond the reach of creditors shortly after his arrest in 1999 over the bombing.

He was sentenced to 14-years imprisonment but later released on appeal, after serving three years, when it was found two gardai had altered evidence.

He repeatedly complained he could not remember a lot of the detail about his assets because he was in a "dark place" and a "black hole" as a result of his arrest and perjured evidence. "I was charged with something I had nothing to do with", he said.

He had transferred some of his assets after his arrest to his wife to provide for his children because he believed he was facing life in prison.

He denied he knew a civil action by the families of the 29 victims of Omagh was coming down the tracks.

Asked would he not have known about it from all the media coverage of a campaign to raise funds for the families’ civil action, or through his IRA contacts, he said: "Who said I had any contact with the IRA, you are saying it, I had no contact.

He added: "I was not a member of the IRA at that time and I had no connection with them".

The court heard the assets included the former family home at Doolargy Lower in Dundalk and a number of housing sites at Mount Pleasant, one of which he lives in but which belongs to his New York-based sister, Angela Reilly, which she and her husband also use as a holiday home.

He said the family home had been transferred to his wife from whom he separated shortly after his arrest and they later divorced.

There had been the Emerald Bar in Dundalk, which he transferred to his wife in 1999 and which in 2015 was valued at €170,000 although he said it is no longer operating.

Another bar in Church Street was later partly turned into a beauty salon run by his eldest daughter. He said that had been acquired by his ex-wife and a sister-in-law. He did not know what happened to the liquor licence attached to that pub.

After he was arrested, he said, he set up a IR£340,000 trust fund, controlled by his wife, for the education of three of his children from the proceeds of his contracting business. He did not know whether that money was paid out to the children when they reached 21. "Ask my ex-wife", he said.

His company at one time had a €1m a year turnover and employed up to 60 people but once he was arrested no one wanted to employ him again.

"People were treating me like a leper, they would walk across the street and would not walk on front of me".

He said another of his companies, Mount Kean, was a non trading holding company for 30 acres of land on the Dublin Road in Dundalk. He said however that this land was paid for out of an account which his sister Angela who had given him power of attorney in relation to.

He also said that at the time of his arrest, he had a bank account in Ashbourne, Co Meath, which had substantial funds in it but was used to pay his tax bill.

He spent some €200,000 on lawyers to defend him in the criminal case although he said he got free legal aid to defend the civil case brought by the families.

Following the cross examination, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan awarded costs of the hearing against Mr Murphy.

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