Northern Ireland

Omagh bomb accused Seamus Daly 'sought for five years'

Seamus Daly Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Seamus Daly, pictured at a previous hearing, was refused bail

An Irish republican accused of murdering 29 people in the Omagh bomb atrocity was sought by police for five years, Belfast High Court has heard.

Seamus Daly lived "under the radar" near the Irish border before he was arrested at a retail centre car park in Newry, County Down, prosecutors said.

It was confirmed charges were brought based on a review of available evidence rather than any new material.

Mr Daly was refused bail at a hearing on Wednesday.

The case against him centres on telephone analysis allegedly linking him to the outrage.

A former business associate who said he spoke to him on a mobile believed to have been used by the bomb team is a "pivotal" prosecution witness, a judge was told.

Mr Daly faces 29 counts of murder over the August 1998 Real IRA attack.

The 43-year-old bricklayer, originally from Culloville, County Monaghan, but now residing in Jonesborough, County Armagh, also faces counts of causing the explosion in Omagh and possession of a bomb in the County Tyrone market town with intent to endanger life or property.

He is further charged with conspiring to cause an explosion and having explosives with intent in connection with a separate dissident republican bomb plot in Lisburn, County Antrim, in April that year.

Cell-site analysis

No one has ever been convicted in connection with the massacre at Omagh.

But Mr Daly, who has a previous conviction in the Republic of Ireland for IRA membership, has already been found liable for the bombing in a landmark civil action taken by victims' families.

The court heard that a man named Denis O'Connor claims Daly phoned him on the day of the attack using a mobile suspected of having travelled into Omagh on the bomb run.

Cell-site analysis also allegedly links him to the earlier bomb incident at Lisburn involving a similar modus operandi and warnings.

Asked by the judge if any of the information was new, prosecution counsel confirmed it was already known to police.

Image copyright Other
Image caption Twenty-nine people were killed in the Omagh atrocity in 1998

She contended, however, that there had been difficulties in locating Mr Daly before he was detained on 7 April.

He gave police a false name - believed to be that of his brother - and incorrect address.

Opposing bail, the lawyer said the chance to arrest him only emerged when he left his home.

"Police believe he has been residing in that address, almost keeping under the radar," she said.

Questioned on how long detectives had been looking for him, she replied: "Police would say in the region of five years."

No comment to questions

Throughout four days of interviews Mr Daly made no comment to all questions.

In a pre-prepared statement, he denied being a member of the IRA or any involvement in either the Lisburn attempted bombing or the attack on Omagh, whose 29 victims included the mother of unborn twins.

Defence counsel argued that the case against his client is too weak for criminal charges.

"There's been no additional evidence in 14 years," he said.

"It has been undoubtedly analysed and undoubtedly conclusions reached (previously) that there was insufficient evidence. Nothing has changed from that."

Rejecting any suggestion that the accused had been evading the authorities, the barrister said he has been in Northern Ireland for nearly three years.

"He's just been living a normal family life at that location," he added.

However, the judge said the prosecution had established a reasonable suspicion against Mr Daly.

He said he was refusing bail due to the twin risks the accused may commit other serious offences or flee.

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