Two men charged with murder of Lyra McKee granted bail

The Public Prosecution Service is to appeal the decision to grant bail to two men accused of the murder of Lyra McKee and a third man charged with rioting on the night that she died.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 1:15 pm
Derry Court House. DER2126GS - 075

Peter Gearoid Cavanagh, (33), of Elmwood Terrace, and 21-year-old Jordan Devine, of Synge Court, are jointly charged with the murder of the 29-year-old journalist on April 18, 2019.

They are further charged with possession of a firearm and ammunition, rioting, possessing and throwing petrol bombs and arson on the same date.

Kavanagh is also accused of the robbery of a tipper truck.

Joe Campbell (20), of Goshaden Cottages, is accused of rioting and possessing and throwing petrol bombs during the incident in Creggan in April 2019.

An investigating officer told Derry Magistrate’s Court he believed he could connect all three defendants to the charges.

The court heard that the evidence in relation to the defendants includes footage from MTV cameras, mobile phone footage of the disorder in Creggan and a clothing comparison.

In relation to Cavanagh, a prosecutor said the Crown case is that he is one of the masked rioters and that he threw three petrol bombs.

It is further alleged he is sitting on the back of a lorry, which a co-accused sets fire to.

The court heard allegations that Cavanagh ‘carries out a stewarding role as the gunman takes up position’ later that same night.

It is further alleged that a zip, which was found the following day in the debris of a separate fire, contains the DNA of the 33-year-old.

It is alleged that Devine was also captured on MTV footage at the Saoradh offices on the afternoon of April 18.

The prosecutor said it was the Crown case that Devine was involved in throwing petrol bombs at police between 9:30pm and 10:10pm, and that he threw 12 petrol bombs at police.

It is also alleged he was involved in the burning of the flat bed tipper truck and was ‘encouraging the gunman’.

The court heard that the Crown case is that Devine was ‘punching the air’ and cheering and ‘appears to lift items from the ground, possibly spent shell casings’.

It is alleged that the person captured on footage of the incident was wearing a Nike snood and a baseball cap.

The court heard that a baseball cap was seized from the 21-year-old’s home and when this was forensically examined a mixed DNA profile was found, with the defendant identified as the major contributing profile.

It is further alleged he was observed by police wearing similar clothing on previous occasions.

In relation to Campbell, it is alleged that similar footage and clothing analysis has been used to identify him throwing petrol bombs during the disorder.

It is further alleged that one police officer identifies him as ‘partially masked’ during the disorder.

Opposing bail, the investigating officer said there are concerns there is a risk of further offending due to the defendants’ association with Saoradh, which police believe is the political wing of the New IRA.

He said there are also concerns the defendants pose a risk of flight.

Derwin Harvey, acting on behalf of Cavanagh, said the identification procedure in this case ‘has been called into question’ by two judges.

He added that the person alleged to be his client is ‘masked greater than any other individual participating in this riot’ and there is no ‘single characteristic’ visible.

Mr Harvey added that Cavanagh denied being involved in the incident during police interview on 32 separate occasions and made the case he was a ‘chronic alcoholic at the time and would not have been capable of doing what was alleged’.

Joe Brolly, defending Devine, said the company employed by the police to carry out the clothing comparisons have ‘previously been held not to be experts’.

He added that the clothing in question is ‘mass produced’ and his client was wearing totally different clothing in footage captured by MTV earlier on that day.

Mr Brolly said there was ‘no potential’ for identification in respect of his client and claimed there is ‘zero sustainable evidence in this case’.

The barrister added ‘in the old days this would have been laughed out of court’.

Mr Brolly said his client had been arrested the day after the shooting and has not sought to leave the jurisdiction in the last two and a half years as he is ‘firmly rooted’ here.

Paddy McGurk, acting on behalf of Campbell, also raised concerns about the identification evidence.

He said there were no unique features to the clothing alleged to have been worn by his client and no fingerprint or DNA evidence.

Mr McGurk added that his client had provided a statement to police in the days after the shooting to give a complete account of his whereabouts on that night.

Granting bail, District Judge Barney McElholm said a risk of further offending ‘exists if someone is stupid enough to get involved with the mindless ideology that the like of Saoradh put forward’.

However, he said that there seems to be ‘little new’ in the evidence and would imagine the defendants would be under ‘intense scrutiny of police’ if granted bail.

All three defendants were granted bail subject to a number of conditions including a curfew, electronic tag and a prohibition on having any contact with each other or any other co-accused.

They will appear in court again on October 7.

Following the granting of bail for the defendants, who each appeared in court separately via videolink, the prosecution said they would be appealing the decision.