Man jailed for possession of gun used to kill Lyra McKee

A man who admitted possessing the gun used to kill the journalist Lyra McKee has been jailed for an extended sentence of 7 years.

The late writer Lyra McKee
The late writer Lyra McKee

Niall Sheerin (29) of Tyrconnell Street in Derry admitted possessing the Hammerli pistol on dates between September 11, 2018 and June 6, 2020.

The court heard that police and the British Army were involved in a search in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry and found the pistol and some ammunition wrapped in bin bags.

The gun was said to have been 'in good condition' and the defendant's DNA was found on the weapon.

Forensic tests revealed that the weapon had been used in 5 incidents in the city over the previous 21 months including the shooting of Lyra McKee on April 18, 2019.

It was also found the weapon had been used in several so called punishment shootings in the city.

Judge Stephen Fowler said that on the night the journalist had been shot there had been 'orchestrated disorder' with rioting and petrol bombs thrown at police.

The judge said Sheerin's plea had been accepted on the basis that he had possession of the weapon with intent to enable others to endanger life.

He said that the defendant was aware he was holding the weapon on behalf of a terrorist organisation namely the New IRA.

The judge said Sheerin may not have been aware of the specific history of the weapon including the fact that it had been used to kill Lyra McKee.

He said that Sheerin had previous convictions for rioting and resisting police.

Judge Fowler said that the 'test for dangerousness' had been met and so any sentence had to both 'punish and protect'.

He said while this was a 'very serious offence' the defendant may not remain dangerous for an extended period of time.

Sheerin was said to have been aware of the nature of the terrorist organisation but the judge added there 'was no evidence he held any organisational role within the group.'

He imposed an extended sentence of 7 years and ordered Sheerin to sign the Anti-terrorism regulations for a period of 15 years.