Omagh detectives bent rules, court told

A senior detective who investigated the Omagh bombing bent the rules when probing other serious crimes, a court heard today.

A barrister for Colm Murphy, one of five men accused of carrying out the worst atrocity in the North, outlined grievances made against the officer during one of the biggest investigations in the Republic of Ireland.

Dermot Fee QC revealed a judge previously criticised Detective Garda James Hanley during the conviction of drug dealer John Gilligan, who was believed to have been involved in the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin.

The retired officer had conceded that he had not kept a record of several meetings he had with two key witnesses.

Quoting from a separate judgment involving Paul Ward, another suspect in the Guerin case, a judge accepted his partner’s evidence that she was successfully subjected to grievous psychological pressure by Mr Hanley.

Mr Hanley told the District Court in Dublin the meetings with the Gilligan witnesses were before they were accepted on the witness protection programme.

He added that Mr Ward’s partner had previously told family members everything had been “cool” with gardaí.

Mr Fee accused Mr Hanley of bending the rules in the past and making up admissions for Murphy.

He said replies allegedly given by his client during three days of questioning implicated him in the 1998 Real IRA bomb attack, which killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

RIRA leader Michael McKevitt; Liam Campbell, said to be his number two; Murphy; Seamus McKenna and Seamus Daly all deny any involvement in the bombing on August 15, 1998.

The £14m (€17.6m) groundbreaking action by six families is the first time the victims of terrorism are confronting the alleged perpetrators and the first time evidence from a Northern Ireland case has been heard in the Republic of Ireland.

The barrister said that Murphy was claimed to have told gardaí that he “knew those fellas” (who used his mobile phone the day of the Omagh bombing) were involved in moving bombs to Northern Ireland to bomb targets.

“This I suggest to you has all the hallmarks of something that was put in by you,” said Mr Fee.

“He could be implicated showing a little knowledge of the movements of Omagh.”

Murphy is also quoted as telling gardaí that he was co-operating with them as a sign he was responsible for his actions but that others were responsible for the disaster.

“At no time did he make this comment,” said Mr Fee.

Mr Hanley replied: “He certainly did.”

Murphy was arrested in February 1999 for the unlawful possession of explosive substances in Dundalk between August 13 and 15, 1998.

The 56-year-old was convicted in connection with Omagh in 2002, but later had his conviction overturned following claims two other officers lied during his trial.

Mr Fee has stressed that his client’s position throughout his criminal trial was that interviewing officers concocted and made an agreement to manufacturer admissions.

Mr Hanley maintained that he never concocted or manufactured Murphy’s interview notes during his detention in February 1999.

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