Northern Ireland

Omagh bomb: Colm Murphy's phone traced within 5km one hour before explosion

Omagh bomb scene
Image caption Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the Real IRA attack

A phone registered to a builder accused of involvement in the Omagh bomb can be traced to within 5km of the town an hour before the explosion, the High Court has heard.

The claim was made at the civil retrial of two men being sued over the bombing.

Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly are defending the action taken by some of the relatives of the victims.

A retrial was ordered after their appeals against being held liable for the bombing were upheld last year.

An investigating detective said Mr Murphy's mobile could be connected to the area by analysis of mast coverage but also confirmed the County Louth man is not suspected of being in Omagh on the day of the Real IRA attack in August 1998.

Mr Murphy, a Dundalk-based contractor and publican, is being sued along with former employee Seamus Daly, from County Monaghan, over the atrocity that killed 29 people and injured hundreds more.

Both men deny the claim against them.

Lawyers for the some of the victims' relatives who have brought the action contend that the defendants played central roles in the terrorist operation.

They claim Mr Murphy supplied mobiles to the bomb team, and that Mr Daly is linked by a call he allegedly made on one of the phones just after the explosion.

During day four of the hearing, evidence was given by Det Con Robert Barr, who was involved in cell site analysis as part of the investigation into the bombing.

He detailed numbers of interest to police at the time and explained attempts to define the coverage and "footprint" of various masts within Omagh and surrounding areas.

That work determined how close a mobile phone had to be to register on a cell site.

The range for one of them, located at a technical college on Bridge Street in the town, was 5km, the court heard.

Mr Barr was questioned by Tony McGleenan QC, for the families, about a phone registered to Mr Murphy and another he is alleged to have borrowed from one of his workers.

The barrister set out how both phones were picked up by the mast around an hour before the bomb went off.

Mr Barr replied: "They have triggered the Bridge Street site, putting them within 5km of Omagh."

Mr Murphy has denied ever being in Omagh in his life.

He told police in the Irish Republic who questioned him that he spent the day of the bomb quad biking with his son and then at his bar in Dundalk.

In cross-examination of the detective, his lawyer claimed identifying exact phone locations from masts was imprecise.

Dermott Fee QC pointed out that callers could be transferred from one site to another with little or no movement.

Dealing with information police supplied to an analyst who studied phone data, the barrister asked: "Can you confirm there is no suggestion Mr Murphy was the person with his phone in his hand at Omagh?"

Mr Barr replied: "I don't believe he was in Omagh."

Two other men found responsible in the initial landmark ruling in 2009, convicted Real IRA leader Michael McKevitt and fellow dissident republican Liam Campbell, failed to have the findings against them overturned.

Last week it emerged they are seeking to go before the European Court of Human Rights to overturn the ruling.

No-one has been criminally convicted of the bomb attack that devastated the County Tyrone market town in August 1998. Among those killed was a woman pregnant with twins.

But McKevitt, a convicted Real IRA leader serving a 20-year jail sentence; Liam Campbell, a farmer from County Louth currently fighting extradition to Lithuania over gun smuggling allegations; Colm Murphy, and Seamus Daly were all held liable for the bombing in a civil ruling in 2009.

Mr Justice Morgan, who is now Northern Ireland's Lord Chief Justice, ordered them to pay £1.6m in compensation.

The Court of Appeal subsequently upheld Mr Murphy and Mr Daly's challenges to the verdict and ordered them to face a re-hearing.

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