Omagh bomb trial opens
A former British army major conceded yesterday that parts of a bomb
examined in 1998 may have been "forensically altered".
The admission came as the non-jury trial began in Belfast this week of
south Armagh man Sean Hoey, the only person brought to trial over the
1998 Omagh bombing by the breakaway 'Real IRA'. Twenty-nine people died
when coded bomb warnings failed to clear the area around the blast, and
the subsequent backlash all but ended the Real IRA's campaign. After
years of delays and controversy, Hoey is now appearing in what is
being described as the biggest murder trial in Irish legal history.
It is understood that the prosecution case against the 36-year-old
south Armagh electrician rests mainly on DNA evidence allegedly
uncovered from what is known as low copy number (trace) DNA testing.
He is charged with and denies a total of 58 charges, principally
relating to to the manufacture of parts used in the Omagh bomb and
others, including mortar bomb attacks on four RUC stations between 1998
In the first days of the trial, Orlando Pownall, acting for Mr Hoey,
has attacked the credibility of the prosecution evidence, including the
failure of RUC officers to handle forensic evidence in a manner
suitable for later DNA testing.
One scenes-of-crime RUC officer agreed that this was the case, because
"the technology for low copy number DNA was not readily available
During cross-examination by Pownall, another scene-of-crime officer
confirmed he had held talks with a junior prosecuting barrister just
before testifying. Prosecutors claimed that the witness had volunteered
relevant new information on photographs of bomb parts without being
asked. This prompted incredulity frm Mr Pownall, who charged that the
witness had been "got at".
Following the opening, Michael Gallagher, whose 21-year-old son was
killed, said it had been "extremely difficult". He said the
the families had heard details of how their loved ones died was during
Mr Gallagher said "no matter how many times you hear it, it was the
last time life went out of our loved ones and that will never be easy".
The trial, which is expected to continue for about 14 weeks, will be
decided by three judges in the controversial Diplock or juryless format
used for IRA trials in the Six Counties.
* A pipe-bomb attack on a County Tyrone PSNI police station has been
claimed by the Real IRA. The small bomb was thrown over the station's
wall on Saturday morning.
A caller to a Belfast newsroom claimed responsibility for the attack in
the name of Oglaigh na hEireann [IRA].
British army bomb disposal experts made the device safe.
Meanwhile, in a separate call, a man claiming to represent the 'West
Fermanagh branch of Oglaigh na hEireann' claimed that incendiary
devices had been left in several Enniskillen shops.