Man to be charged with Omagh bomb murders

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The Independent Online

A man is expected to be charged with the murders of the 29 people who were killed in the Omagh bombing in August 1998.

The charges can be expected to result in an epic legal case which will be one of the biggest mass murder trials in British and Irish history. The Real IRA bomb attack in Omagh, which is regarded as one of the worst bombings of the Northern Ireland troubles, also killed unborn twins and injured more than 300 people.

It has been followed by many legal sequels, with several of those suspected of involvement jailed for a variety of offences. But no one has yet been directly charged with the actual murders of the victims.

The man to be charged is Sean Gerard Hoey, 35, an electrician from the border district of Jonesborough in south Armagh. He is in custody on a series of terrorist charges, which include Real IRA membership.

He is also accused in connection with explosives and timer units said to be linked to a series of bomb and mortar attacks across Northern Ireland.

Legal proceedings are expected to last many months, after the authorities amassed thousands of documents and exhibits following an exhaustive review of forensic evidence in the Omagh case. The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Belfast has now authorised murder charges to be brought.

A spokesperson for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said last night: "The Omagh inquiry is very much a live investigation to which police continue to dedicate significant time and resources.

"The current position is that the senior investigating officer has received instructions from the DPP which are being processed."

The charges may hold up the unprecedented legal action launched by the families of some of the 29 victims who are claiming £10m in damages from five republicans, four of whom are already behind bars, in a landmark civil case. This had been expected to be heard this year.

Several months ago the relatives expressed disappointment when a Dublin court said it had no jurisdiction to grant their application for materials used in the prosecution of some of the five men. The relatives had asked for trial transcripts and statements used during the trials.

Police investigations into the Omagh bombing have not gone smoothly, with persistent complaints from the families who wanted murder charges to be brought. They continue to press for a full cross-border public inquiry.

In January Colm Murphy, the only man jailed for the Omagh bombing, was granted a re-trial in Dublin after winning his appeal against his conviction.

He was jailed in 2002 for 14 years on a charge of conspiring to cause an explosion in August 1998, the date of the Real IRA attack.

Michael McKevitt, who was chief of staff of the Real IRA at the time of the Omagh attack, is currently serving a 20-year sentence for directing terrorism, a charge which did not specifically include the Omagh bombing.

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