Northern Ireland

Omagh bomb: Retrial hears transcripts of Colm Murphy's police interview

Omagh bomb scene
Image caption Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA attack

The civil retrial of two men being sued over the Omagh bombing has been hearing transcripts from a police interview with Colm Murphy.

The Dundalk man was questioned by Irish police almost a year after the bombing.

Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly are defending the action taken by some of the relatives of the victims.

A retrial was ordered after their appeals against being held liable for the bombing were upheld last year.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for the families read from the interview transcripts.

In them, Mr Murphy denied he played any part in the atrocity which claimed the lives of 29 people in 1998.

He said that on the day of the bomb he had taken his son on a quad bike into the mountains outside Dundalk.

He claimed he later went to the bar he owned and stayed there until closing time.

When asked to explain to Gardai how his mobile phone had been used in the Castleblayney and County Tyrone area on 15 August, he said he did not know.

Mr Murphy told Gardai he had never been in Omagh and only found out about the bombing when he watched a newsflash on television on the night of the attack.

The court also heard from a telephone analyst who examined mobile phone records on the day of the bombing.

She described how she painstakingly went through around five million records taken from phone masts.

It is the families' case that Mr Murphy provided two phones used in the bombing operation while Mr Daly, from County Monaghan, used one of them during it.

The witness said she had looked at mobile phones usage an hour before and one hour after the bomb exploded in the main street.

She said once charts were produced the police directed her as to what phone numbers they wanted her to look at.

She is due to be cross-examined by defence counsel acting for the men on Wednesday.

Two other men found responsible in the initial ruling previously failed to have the findings against them overturned.

They are convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and fellow dissident republican Liam Campbell.

Last week it emerged they are seeking to go before the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling.

No-one has been criminally convicted of the bomb attack that devastated the County Tyrone market town in August 1998. Among those killed was a woman pregnant with twins.

But McKevitt, a convicted Real IRA leader serving a 20-year jail sentence; Campbell, a farmer from County Louth currently fighting extradition to Lithuania over gun smuggling allegations; Colm Murphy, and Seamus Daly were all held liable for the bombing in a civil ruling in 2009.

Mr Justice Morgan, who is now Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice, ordered them to pay £1.6m in compensation.

The Court of Appeal subsequently upheld Mr Murphy and Mr Daly's challenges to the verdict and ordered them to face a re-hearing.

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