Judge confirms that two Lyra McKee murder accused should be freed on bail after rejecting courtroom appeal

Prosecutors failed today in a High Court bid to stop two men charged with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee being granted bail.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 1:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 2:24 pm
Pro-paramilitary graffiti in Londonderry after the murder

A judge rejected an appeal against a decision that Gearoid Peter Cavanagh, 33, and Jordan Devine, 21, should be released from custody.

The pair are accused of involvement in events surrounding the dissident republican killing in Londonderry.

Ms McKee, 29, was shot dead while she observed rioting in the Creggan area on April 18, 2019.

A masked gunman emerged and opened fire as police came under petrol bomb attack during the New IRA-orchestrated unrest.

Neither Cavanagh, of Elmwood Terrace in the city, nor Devine, from Synge Court in the city, are accused of firing the fatal shot.

But they were charged with the journalist’s murder following a review of available identification evidence.

Both men face further counts of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, riot, possession of petrol bombs, throwing petrol bombs and arson.

At the city’s Magistrates’ Court last week they were granted bail along with a third defendant, 21-year-old Joe Campbell from Gosheden Cottages in the city, who is charged with rioting and petrol bomb offences on the night Ms McKee was killed.

The Public Prosecution Service mounted an appeal in an attempt to prevent all three men’s release, claiming there was a risk of serious further offences.

The court heard charges were brought after comparing footage an MTV documentary crew recorded at the scene and earlier that day at dissident republican political party Saoradh’s offices.

It was contended that Devine can be identified standing close to the gunman, cheering and punching the air as the shots were fired.

He also allegedly threw missiles at police and picked up misfired rounds from the ground.

Cavanagh is the masked figure on the footage who escorted the gunman to and from the scene, the prosecution claim.

At one point he also allegedly stewarded the crowd.

The gun used to kill Ms McKee, a .22 pistol, was discovered in a hollow behind a telegraph pole during searches in the city’s Ballymagroarty area in June last year.

It was also used in four New IRA punishment shootings in Londonderry between September 2018 and March 2019, the court heard.

Defence lawyers argued that the charges were based on weak and fiercely disputed evidence.

Questioning alleged identification from footage of individuals wearing mass-produced items of clothing, they claimed the prosecution case was doomed to failure.

His Honour Judge Stephen Fowler QC was also told that another man charged with Ms McKee’s murder, 53-year-old Paul McIntrye, of Kinnego Park in Londonderry, has been on bail for more than a year.

On that basis he ruled that all three defendants before him should also be released from custody.

“It’s difficult to distinguish the case against McIntyre and that against Devine and Cavanagh,” Judge Fowler said,

“The prosecution have not sought to differentiate between these applicants and McIntyre in terms of involvement.

“Accordingly, for those reasons I’m minded to grant bail.”

He imposed curfews, ordered the accused to report to police three times a week and banned them from contacting each other.

They are also excluded from the Creggan and Brandywell areas of Londonderry under the terms of bail.

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