Omagh accused in 'memory loss' plea

The only man jailed in connection with the Omagh bombing in the North claimed today that his short-term memory loss would interfere with his right to a fair hearing in a retrial.

The only man jailed in connection with the Omagh bombing in the North claimed today that his short-term memory loss would interfere with his right to a fair hearing in a retrial.

Colm Murphy (aged 53) a Co Louth builder and publican, is attempting to halt a retrial on conspiracy charges linked to the 1998 blast which killed 29 people, including a mother pregnant with twins.

The High Court in Dublin is hearing a judicial review challenge to the trial, which was supposed to open in the non-jury Special Criminal Court last January.

Michael O'Higgins SC, for Murphy, said the charges were based solely on a hotly-contested alleged admission by the accused during an interview with investigating gardaí.

It is alleged the accused lent his mobile phone for use in the Real IRA bomb outrage.

"The case comes down at the end of the day to a one line verbal admission alleged to have been said in interview," said Mr O'Higgins.

The barrister said there is no video footage of the interviews and records were found to be incomplete.

Notes of the interrogation varied greatly with some confined to key words or phrases and in some cases it appeared like streams of consciousness, Mr O'Higgins said.

He argued that tests carried out on purported contemporaneous Garda notes on their questioning of Murphy were found to be re-written.

"In all cases it appears there is incomplete records of what was said in the interviews," he said.

A neuropsychologist carried out tests on the accused which concluded he had suffered brain damage in a car accident prior to his arrest, leaving his short-term memory impaired, the court heard.

Mr O'Higgins said what had happened in the interview room is clearly critical to the case and could not be proved because of the state of the records and his client's medical condition.

He will also argue that there have been substantial delays - of a prosecutorial and systemic nature - in bringing the case, which amount to an interference of Murphy's right to a fair trial.

The judicial review being heard by Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill is expected to last two days.

Shane Murphy SC, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, told the court he would be opposing the application to stop the retrial.

Murphy, dressed in a navy pinstriped suit with an open collared shirt, sat alone at the back of the court room throughout the hearing.

The Co Armagh man, of Jordan's Corner, Ravensdale, Co Louth, was freed on bail in 2005 after the Court of Criminal Appeal quashed his conviction and 14-year sentence.

It was found the trial court failed to give proper regard to altered interview notes by investigating gardaí.

Mr O'Higgins said the accused's legal team had not been aware of their client's brain damage from a car accident in 1988 from day one of his first trial.

Highly-skilled diagnostician Dr Harry Kennedy said there was a very subtle nature to the condition which had allowed it to go unnoticed, the judicial review was told.

In a medical report, the doctor said the visual-spatial disorder would be further exacerbated in times of emotional stress such as interrogation from police.

Mr O'Higgins said his client's memory difficulties made it difficult for him to meaningfully and accurately challenge what was said in the Garda interviews as set out by the detectives' notes.

Two detectives accused of forging interview notes and committing perjury during Murphy's trial were last year acquitted of the charges.

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