`No defence' in IRA bomb trial

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The Independent Online
Lawyers for a republican charged with the murders of nine people in the Shankill Road bombing of October 1993 yesterday indicated that they would not contest prosecution evidence and invited the Crown to close its case.

The trial of Sean Kelly, 20, from Ardoyne, Belfast, was adjourned to allow the prosecution to consider the development. He had earlier refused to recognise the court.

Mr Kelly is charged with killing the two children, four women and three men who died in the IRA attack on a fishmonger's shop situated below loyalist offices on the Shankill Road. The Crown case is that he and another IRA man, Thomas Begley, carried the bomb into the shop. The device went off prematurely, killing Begley and the nine people.

At a previous hearing, Mr Kelly had pleadednot guilty to the charges, but on Tuesday he interrupted the hearing and declared: "As a republican, I refuse to recognise this Diplock court as this system is corrupt.''

Ronald Appleton, for the prosecution, told Belfast Crown Court that witnesses had seen Mr Kelly and Begley, dressed in white coats and hats, carrying a box into the fishmonger's. As Begley set down the box it exploded.

Mr Appleton said a forensic scientist would give evidence that the bomb's timer could be set only for 2.2 or 11 seconds. He said it was clear the bombers meant to kill anyone in the building or itsvicinity since such short delays would ensure the bomb exploded before the premises could be evacuated.

He said the scene of terror, devastation and confusion after the explosion would be described by witnesses who saw women and children screaming, men and women looking for their spouses, and children looking for their parents. Rescuers looking for survivors tore at the rubble with their bare hands, he said.

Eight people in the fish shop were killed, together with two more who were outside the premises.

Mr Appleton said there was evidence suggesting that a reconnaissance had been carried out before the bombing. Eleven days before the attack a Ford Escort car had been seen slowly driving down the Shankill Road. with three occupants looking about them A police patrol had seen the car and when it was stopped in Ardoyne, Mr Kelly was found to be one of the three occupants.

Mr Kelly, a slightly built figure with spectacles and a moustache, refused to stand as the judge came into court.

nThe RUC confirmed yesterday that a suspicious object found at a Woolworths store in Belfast was an incendiary device described as "crude and amateurish''.