Robert Hamill murder: Judge concerned about progress

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image captionRobert Hamill was attacked and beaten by loyalists in Portadown in 1997

A judge has expressed concern over the progress of the case against three people charged in connection with the murder of Robert Hamill.

The 25-year-old Catholic was attacked and beaten by loyalists in Portadown on 27 April 1997.

Three people are accused of perverting the course of justice in the aftermath of the killing.

None of the defendants were in Craigavon Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

They are Eleanor Atkinson and Robert Cecil Atkinson, both 65, of Brownstown Road in Portadown - who are charged with conspiracy to commit an act which had a tendency to pervert the course of justice - and Kenneth Hanvey, 67, of Derryanvil Road in Portadown, who is charged with perverting the course of justice.

QC's availability questioned

The charges relate to information given to the police about the identity of the person who made a telephone call from the Atkinsons' home on the morning of 27 April 1997.

In Craigavon Magistrate's Court on Wednesday, District Judge Bernie Kelly said the case could go "straight back to the drawing board and then I can guarantee nothing" if issues over the availability of legal representatives and witnesses were not resolved quickly.

The judge was speaking after the prosecution said that the availability of QC Toby Hedworth was yet to be confirmed.

It was stated that Mr Hedworth would be available for a period of time from 18 March to 29 April - the first of which dates coincides with court closures over the St Patrick's Day period.

In response to this suggestion, the judge said: "If he wants to work in Northern Ireland, he should know about our bank holiday calendar."

Witness issues

The judge also raised concerns about the availability of a witness in the case.

"This witness doesn't come on foot of a summons - so we need to speak to the witness about their availability rather than setting up a fortnight of court time and for them with no intention of coming," she said.

"Do we know where she is living?"

The prosecution is to seek to clarify these matters.

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