IRA man acquitted in retrial

2010-02-25 15:01

Dublin – The only man ever convicted of involvement in the 1998 car-bomb slaughter in Omagh was acquitted on Wednesday in a retrial judgment that angered the survivors of Northern Ireland's deadliest blast.

The three judges of Ireland's anti-terrorist Special Criminal Court ruled that police had failed to collect sufficient evidence against Colm Murphy, 57 – and had fatally undermined their case by illegally rewriting their records of Murphy's alleged admissions under interrogation.

Murphy, an Irish Republican Army veteran once caught in an FBI sting trying to buy American machine guns, said outside the courthouse that he was "glad to see it's all over".

Nobody has been successfully prosecuted for the August 15 1998 attack by the Real IRA splinter group in the heart of Omagh.

Twenty-nine people, mostly women and children, died after the 225kg car bomb ripped through crowds of shoppers, workers and tourists whom police had evacuated away from the town's courthouse, thinking it was the target.

Michael Gallagher, who lost his only son in the bombing, watched Murphy's acquittal with what he described as a mixture of familiar sadness and long-buried fury.


"The families have been disappointed time and time again, but when it happens it is still hard," said Gallagher, who attended Wednesday's court hearing. "I think this is the first time in years I feel angry."

He noted that the British and Irish governments repeatedly vowed following the Omagh atrocity to catch and punish the bombers, and then-US president Bill Clinton visited the scene to offer American support – yet justice has never come.

Instead, judges on both sides of the Irish border have blamed detectives for bungling their investigations.

Police in the British territory of Northern Ireland tried to convict Murphy's nephew Sean Hoey of manufacturing several Real IRA bombs, including the one used in Omagh. But that case collapsed in 2007 when a Belfast judge rejected the forensic evidence as unreliable.

Cellphone records

The main evidence against Murphy was the records of two cellphones, which were tracked crossing the Irish border to Omagh and back on the day of the attack. He received a 14-year sentence in 2002 – even though the judges in that trial denounced two of the detectives who interrogated Murphy for lying on the witness stand.

Murphy's lawyers successfully appealed the conviction three years later by demonstrating that the two detectives had rewritten their notes of Murphy's alleged statements in custody. Ireland's Court of Criminal Appeal freed Murphy on bail and ordered a retrial.

Labour Party justice spokesperson Pat Rabbitte said it was "bitterly disappointing", but not surprising, that Murphy won his retrial because of the detectives' shoddy work.

"The lesson that must be learned is that, even in the investigation of the most heinous offences, investigating officers must remain within the law and there can be no short cuts to convictions," Rabbitte said.

Landmark lawsuit

Last year, Murphy was one of four alleged IRA dissidents who lost a landmark lawsuit in Belfast filed by 12 relatives of the Omagh dead.

He and three other men convicted of dissident IRA activities were ordered to pay the victims £1.6m (more than $2.5m), but they are appealing the judgment.

Murphy has served three prison sentences in Ireland and the US for activities in the outlawed IRA and its breakaway factions.

In 1983, he was caught in an FBI sting operation while trying to buy US Army M60 heavy machine guns from an undercover officer. He served half of a five-year sentence before being deported back to Ireland.

- AP

Read more on:    ireland

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


ANC set for two-thirds majority - poll

The ANC is on course to win nearly a two-thirds majority in 7 May elections, a poll has showed, confounding analysts who had predicted a fall in support for the ruling party.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R5727.00

I'm shopping for:


You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.