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Cross-border concerns over Jennifer Dornan murder case

Although the cross-border extradition process in Ireland was regularly surrounded by legal and political complexities in the past, it was widely felt that all the related issues had been effectively resolved some time ago.

There will be considerable surprise over our report today that the only person wanted for questioning about the brutal murder of mother of three Jennifer Dornan in Belfast last month remains in a Dublin prison and may even have to eventually stand trial in the Republic.

The suspect has not been officially named but is known to be west Belfast man Raymond O'Neill (37), who is currently serving the remainder of a jail term for aggravated burglary in Dublin's Mountjoy jail.

O'Neill was understood to have absconded from prison in the Republic in April of this year while on parole and was unlawfully at large when Ms Dornan (30) was stabbed to death at her home in the Lagmore area of west Belfast on August 2.

Police, who believe that the house was then deliberately set on fire to destroy forensic evidence, recovered a 14-inch knife nearby and are confident they can prove that it was the murder weapon.

O'Neill, who remains the only suspect, was arrested in Bundoran, Co Donegal, a week after the killing and regulations dictated that he was then transferred back to Mountjoy to serve the balance of his existing sentence for the burglary offences.

The authorities on both sides of the border are fully aware that O'Neill is due for release in December, and the PSNI are actively seeking his extradition with legal proceedings already under way.

However, if the necessary European warrant cannot be secured in time, then police have confirmed that O'Neill could have to stand trial in Dublin for the murder of Ms Dornan.

The case will have to run its course in line with the existing guidelines but many observers will feel that new legislation is required to prevent similar delays surrounding future high-profile investigations.

Ms Dornan’s family and friends are entitled to be deeply concerned that that the person who has been identified as the only suspect in her murder has been in custody for nearly two months without being questioned about the appalling crime.

It must surely be possible to come up with a system which allows a murder probe on one side of the Irish border to take precedence over a burglary charge on the other and enable justice to be delivered as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

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