A mobile phone belonging to the only man charged in connection with the Omagh bombing was used in the town on the day of the blast, a court heard today.
Colm Murphy was either in Omagh or had lent the phone to someone on the day that 29 people died and more than 200 were injured, when the bomb exploded in the crowded market town, the Special Criminal Court heard.
Father of four, 49-year-old Murphy, of Dundalk, Co Louth, denies conspiring to cause an explosion between August 13 and 16, 1998.
Superintendent Thomas Flannery told the no-jury court that police had received information that the mobile phone was used in Omagh on the day of the blast.
He also said officers had evidence that individuals in the border towns of Dundalk and Carrickmacross had been involved in bomb-making and wanted to trace associates of Murphy.
"An investigation was in progress into the Omagh bombing. Intelligence was being gathered and I had reasonable grounds to believe that evidence could be found at Mr Murphy’s home," he told the court.
"I had information that the property of Mr Murphy could have been used at Omagh on August 15 and documents might be found on his property."
He added: "The information given to Gardai was that bombs had been assembled somewhere in the Carrickmacross or Dundalk areas."
The case hinges on whether Murphy gave his mobile phone to associates who carried out the Omagh bombing, following a similar attack in Banbridge, Co Down, months earlier, in which more than 100 people suffered physical or psychological injuries.
Officers raided Murphy’s home at Jordan’s Corner, Dundalk, in February 1999 and took away two mobile telephones and around 50 documents including a telephone bill, the court heard.
Following the raid Murphy was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully possessing an explosive substance. He was later charged with conspiracy to cause explosions between August 13 and 16, 1998 - the weekend of the devastating attack on Omagh.
But Michael O’Higgins, defending, today claimed that police had no evidence directly linking his client to explosives.
He told how Murphy’s construction firm went bankrupt the day after his arrest.
And he accused police of holding Murphy without putting their allegations to him, saying: "You were going to bring him in for two or three days and ask him about the telephone, not about these explosives, but about this telephone, because that was the lead you had."
He added: "If they are making the case that his phone was round Omagh two inferences can be drawn - Mr Murphy was with his phone in Omagh or alternatively he had given his phone to somebody else."
But after his arrest Murphy had denied giving his mobile to another person and said he had seven alibis for the day of the blast, August 15, 1998.
Earlier, the three-judge panel, headed by Mr Justice Barr, heard evidence from cartographers who sited mobile phone masts surrounding Omagh.
And the court was told how police battled in vain to shepherd shoppers away from the bomb because of confused and inadequate coded warnings.
Initial warnings placed the bomb at the Court House, but further calls said it was in a different part of the town.
RUC communications officer Martin Miller told how he was trying to direct officers on the ground from his station half-a-mile away, after the first warning was received at 2.34pm.
But, he said, as he spoke to officers: "There was a large explosion. Most of the power and communications went off, the computers went off and the telephones went off."
And under examination from Peter Charleton, prosecuting, Sergeant Charles Daly said that the codeword Marda Pope - a recognised Real IRA call sign - was used on the day of the Banbridge bomb.
Variations of this codeword - Martha Pope and Martyr Pope - were used on the day of the Omagh attack, linking the two, he said.
Murphy has been remanded on continuing bail of £50,000. The trial is expected to last for a month.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.