Revealed: Warning signs that could have stopped the Omagh bombing

Emails from FBI agent said to show that services had detailed picture of Real IRA before attack

Crime Correspondent

The British and Irish governments will face demands this week for a new inquiry into their police and intelligence agencies after unpublished emails from an FBI spy raised fresh questions about what the authorities could have done to prevent the  1998 Omagh bombing.

A report, commissioned by families of some of the 29 people killed in the attack, claims that the bombing could have been prevented if three crucial strands of evidence had been linked, leading to increased security  that could have disrupted the bombers’ plans.

The families are expected to renew their calls for a cross-border public inquiry, a year after their report was delivered to the two governments as part of their long-running campaign to learn the full story behind the Real IRA attack.

The report is thought to draw on hundreds of pages of emails between David Rupert – an American trucker-turned-informant who infiltrated republican paramilitaries – and his MI5 handler.

It is understood the emails provide detail on potential planning, locations and personnel for an attack in the run-up to the blast on 15 August, 1998, when a stolen Vauxhall car was packed with 500lb of explosives and detonated in the town centre.

The families say those details were not shared with police on either side of the border before the attack or during the investigation to find out who was responsible.

The report is understood to say:

* a senior Irish police officer failed to pass to his counterparts in the North information that dissident republicans were trying to obtain a vehicle for a bombing, a claim previously rejected by the Irish government and police in the North;

* there is evidence to back claims – denied by the authorities – that the bombers’ car may have been tracked in the run-up to the attack with the help of the FBI;

* three pieces of evidence, from an anonymous tip-off and two informants, could have prevented the bombing if they had been brought together in time;

* the Rupert emails provided MI5 with material that was not passed swiftly to police investigating who was responsible.

Copies of the emails were obtained by the families, and sections were used in a civil case which saw them win £1.6m in 2009 against four men found liable for the murders.

The four included Michael McKevitt, the leader of the Real IRA, who was jailed in 2003 for 20 years for directing terrorism, in a case unrelated to the Omagh bombing. Nobody has been convicted for the Omagh attack. The families say the evidence in their report goes beyond what was revealed in two Panorama programmes, which included claims that on the day of the attack GCHQ was monitoring a phone number being used by the bombers.

Following those claims, a report  by Sir Peter Gibson concluded that the attack could not have been prevented. It was one of a number of inquiries which examined issues including the sharing of evidence, the role of police in the south, and a review of what intelligence was picked up by GCHQ. The families say their inquiry, conducted by private investigators, raises questions that can be answered only by a full, cross-border inquiry.

Michael Gallagher, whose son Aidan was killed in the bombing, said: “When we started to read the emails, we started to learn the extent of the information that the intelligence services had.

“It was obvious from the emails that early in 1998 they had a handle on these people. They had identified the key players, they had telephone numbers. And they had sources quite close, if not at the top of, this organisation. So when it came to the point of the Omagh bomb, the knowledge they had was very extensive.”

The families believe the Rupert emails, along with warnings of a dissident operation from an agent for British military intelligence and an anonymous tip-off 11 days before the attack naming three men, should have prompted a security operation in Omagh that could have prevented the attack.

The families’ report is believed to have brought together an examination of a series of reports, witness statements and interviews with  key figures involved in the investigation.They are due to give details of their findings at a press conference in Omagh on Thursday, a week before the 15th anniversary of the attack in the market town.

“We are still considering the options and we hope to reach a decision shortly” on the families’ demand for a public inquiry, said a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers.

Timeline: The search for truth

15 August 1998: Blast rips through Omagh, killing 29 people after a series of contradictory warnings.

October 2000: Panorama broadcasts names of four men connected with the bombing.

December 2001: Report by ombudsman criticises police inquiry and says key intelligence was not passed to inquiry team.

August 2003: Michael McKevitt convicted of directing terrorism and jailed in charges unrelated to the Omagh attack.

September 2008: Panorama reports agencies monitored phones of suspected bombers.

January 2009: Sir Peter Gibson says the attack could not have been prevented .

June 2009: Families win civil claim against four men found liable for the Omagh bomb, who are ordered to pay £1.6m.

June 2012: Campaigners present questions they want answered.

August 2013: Families call for new public inquiry.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London