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Omagh bombing suspect acquitted -

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Omagh bombing suspect acquitted

AM - Friday, 21 December , 2007 08:19:00

Reporter: Sabra Lane

TONY EASTLEY: The 1998 Omagh bombing was one of the worst atrocities carried out in Northern
Ireland.

It was the murderous work of the breakaway militant Irish Republican Army group, the Real IRA.

29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, died in the car bombing.

Today, the only man charged over the attack, 38-year-old electrician Sean Hoey, was found not
guilty.

In handing down the verdict, the judge criticised police, describing their forensic evidence as
slap-dash.

Sabra Lane reports.

SABRA LANE: The bomb went off on August 15, 1998.

A telephoned threat gave police the wrong location for the bomb, leading police to evacuate
shoppers to the area where the car bomb was parked.

The blast killed 29 people. They'd been in the town's centre shopping or sight-seeing. Both
Catholics and Protestants were among the dead.

SABRA LANE: The atrocity shocked the world. It had come just four months after the Good Friday
agreement, which many had hoped would bring peace to Northern Ireland.

TONY BLAIR: What happened in Omagh represents everything that is wrong about the past.

SABRA LANE: Today at the Belfast Crown Court, 38-year-old electrician Sean Hoey, the only man to be
charged over the atrocity, was found not guilty. Mr Hoey had always maintained his innocence.

Many relatives of those killed in the carnage were in court to hear the verdict, like Lawrence
Rush, whose wife Libby died that autumn day.

LAWRENCE RUSH: It's devastating. It's a disaster the way that this investigation was held. I can
say no more about it. All I know is that I am tired, you know. I'm exhausted.

It's been a long corridor, 10 years of pain and hope and then for them to take a (inaudible) with
no evidence of all, obviously, and lost evidence... it's just too much to take in at one time, you
know.

SABRA LANE: The case was heard by a judge, there was no jury. In dismissing the charges today, Mr
Justice Weir was highly critical of police evidence.

He said detectives were guilty of a "deliberate and calculated deception". The police ombudsman is
now investigating the officers involved.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan carried out the initial investigation of the Omagh bombing. Back then he
promised he'd fall on his sword if there was anything wrong with the inquiry.

Today Kevin Skelton, whose wife Philomena died in the blast, said he'd help the officer carry out
his promise.

KEVIN SKELTON: Well, I'd hold the sword for him. Let's see now if he wants to follow it.

SABRA LANE: The trial started September last year. Within two weeks Mr Skelton said he knew the
case would fall over because it was obvious the detective work had been so bad.

KEVIN SKELTON: I'm very angry at the investigating team that took that to trial. And I made a
statement where I said the trial was a farce. And I've taken a lot of verbal verbals since that.
I'm vindicated today. The trial was a farce from day one.

SABRA LANE: Detective chief Norman Baxter conducted a second investigation into the bombing.

NORMAN BAXTER: This is another devastating day for the victims of Omagh, the people who lost so
many loved ones on that tragic day in 1998. It is also a very difficult day for the (inaudible) and
I, who in recent years have been attempting to investigate the Omagh bomb and to bring those people
to justice who, in a cold heartedly manner, set out to murder people in Omagh that August
afternoon.

SABRA LANE: But the legal action isn't over. In April next year a group of Omagh victims' families
will take civil action against five men, seeking damages.

TONY EASTLEY: Sabra Lane reporting.