30/11/2006

Omagh judge orders investigation into evidence

The judge at the Omagh bomb trial has today hit out at two police officers after it emerged that there had been doubt cast upon the evidence in which they supplied to the court.

Mr Justice Weir, said that the actions of Detective Sergeant Fiona Cooper and Detective Sgt Philip Marshall - now Detective Chief Inspector, in the trial of Sean Hoey, 37, had been "reprehensible" and that the “credibility of the two witnesses had been brought into serious question."

The Police Ombudsman has now been called in to investigate their actions.

Mr Justice Weir requested the investigation when ruling on a defence application to have two of the 58 charges – unrelated to the Omagh bombing – against the alleged Omagh bomber, scrapped.

The charges related to a murder conspiracy and a mortar bomb find at Altmore Forest at Dungannon, Co Tyrone, in April 2001.

Mr Justice Weir rejected the application.

He said: "I do not however accept in the course of the present case that the conduct of the police witnesses is so grave as to threaten or undermine the rule of law itself.

"Any prejudice can be dealt with within the trial process."

The accusations against the two police witnesses relate to written statements which they made and which the court heard had replaced earlier statements which had since disappeared.

Hoey's lawyer, Orlando Pownall QC, alleged the statements had been doctored to make case against Hoey appear stronger.

Sean Hoey, 37, of Molly Road, Jonesborough, County Armagh, faces 58 charges including the murders of 29 people during the Omagh bombing in 1998. He denies all the charges.

(EF)

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