Andrew Burns' family express sympathy for killer's family

Murder scene
Image caption Mr Burns's body was found on the road by teenagers from a nearby youth club

The family of a Strabane man murdered four years ago have said they feel sorry for the relatives of the man convicted of his killing.

Andrew Burns, 27, was shot twice in the back in February 2008 in a church car park in County Donegal.

Martin Kelly, 37, of Barrack Steet has been jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court in Dublin for the dissident republican murder.

He had pleaded not guilty to the murder.

The murder was linked to the dissident republican group, Oglaigh na hEireann.

Kelly was also sentenced to eight years in prison for possession of a firearm.

Mr Burns' brother-in-law Dominic said the family were delighted with the sentence.

"It has been a long time coming. It was a great relief for the family.

"We're one of the lucky families who has got some justice.

"He was the youngest in the family and was a great friend.

Feel sorry

"I feel sorry for the family of Martin Kelly. They have had to endure this as well.

"We wouldn't have known him but would have known about him. There are always two sides to every story."

Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding at the non-jury court with two other judges, said that the court had no discretion with regard to the murder conviction and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The judge paid tribute to the Garda investigation and said they had "left no stone unturned" in their efforts.

The court previously heard that Kelly had been told to bring Burns from his home in Strabane to Donnyloop in Donegal for a punishment shooting.

He drove him to the church car park where three men were waiting in a hedge.

A gunman fired at Burns, who ran but was hit by a second shot which killed him. All three got into Kelly's car and he drove them back across the border, stopping to hide the gun in a hedge.

Kelly was interviewed by officers from Garda and the PSNI at a hotel in Northern Ireland where he admitted what he had done.

A Garda superintendent said that Kelly had named his accomplices during an interview with gardai.

He agreed with a defence counsel that because of this there was "a very real, exceptional, dangerous threat to his life" and that he would probably have to be exiled from his family and home when eventually released from prison.

The superintendent said that the Garda investigation into the murder still continuing with the assistance of the PSNI.

He said that to date five people had been arrested in connection with it.