Omagh bombing charges dropped against Seamus Daly before case reaches Belfast Crown Court

Omagh bombing charges dropped against Seamus Daly before case reaches Belfast Crown Court
File photo of Seamus Daly.

Prosecutors have dropped the charges against a bricklayer accused of murdering 29 people in the 1998 Omagh bomb.

Seamus Daly, 45, had been on remand in prison since being charged with the Real IRA atrocity and a range of other terror offences in April 2014.

Seven years ago, Daly was one of four men successfully sued for bombing the Co Tyrone market town when he was found liable for the attack in a landmark civil case taken by some of the bereaved families.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the murders in a criminal court.

Daly, from Co Armagh, has always denied involvement in the bombing which inflicted the greatest loss of life of any terror atrocity in the history of the North's Troubles.

The dead came from the North, the Republic of Ireland, England and Spain. One of the victims was pregnant with twins.

The dramatic decision by the Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service (PPS) comes before Daly's case had even reached the floor of the Crown Court.

A pre-trial hearing commenced in Omagh Magistrates' Court last week to establish whether the evidence in the case was of sufficient strength to warrant such a trial.

That decision has now been taken out of District Judge Peter King's hands, as the PPS has withdrawn the charges before the preliminary hearing had reached conclusion.

A PPS lawyer officially withdrew the prosecution during a routine magistrate's hearing at Ballymena Courthouse, Co Antrim, this morning.

As well as the 29 murder counts, Daly, from Kilnasaggart Road, Jonesborough, Co Armagh, had faced charges of causing the August 1998 explosion and possession of a bomb with intent to endanger life or property.

He was further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate dissident republican bomb plot in Lisburn in April of the same year.

All charges have now been dropped.

In 2009, Daly and three others were ordered to pay £1.6 million in damages to the bereaved relatives - money they are still pursuing.

Daly faced a civil retrial after successfully appealing against the original finding, but the second trial delivered the same outcome as the first, with judge Mr Justice John Gillen ruling him responsible for the attack.

In 2007, south Armagh electrician Sean Hoey, who was then 38 and from Jonesborough, was found not guilty of the 29 murders after a marathon trial at Belfast Crown Court.

At the time, trial judge Mr Justice Weir heavily criticised the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its successor, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, for their handling of the investigation.

File photo of Michael Gallagher and Stanley McComb.
File photo of Michael Gallagher and Stanley McComb.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aiden was killed, said he was unhappy that information was circulating on Tuesday morning about the collapse of the case, yet he and other families had not been informed by the authorities.

"We have been failed once again by the police service, by the prosecution service, by the government and by the criminal justice system," he said.

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