Northern Ireland

Two men arrested in Donegal and Meath in connection with murder of RUC officer in 1975

RUC constable Robert John McPherson was shot dead by the INLA in Dungiven, Co Derry

RUC constable Robert John McPherson
RUC constable Robert John McPherson

A TD has offered a bail surety for a man wanted in Northern Ireland to face a charge that he murdered an RUC officer nearly 50 years ago.

John Edward McNicholl (72) was arrested at home in Newmills, Letterkenny, Co Donegal.

Mr McNicholl was brought before the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday just hours after Seamus Christopher O’Kane (73) appeared there on a firearms and explosives warrant linked to the same murder.

Mr McNicholl is alleged to have murdered RUC constable Robert John McPherson and to have attempted to murder a second RUC officer on July 26, 1975.

Constable McPherson was from Leck, outside Coleraine in Co Derry. He was shot dead in an INLA ambush in Dungiven Main Street.

He was hit by a single shot when he and a colleague were ambushed as they investigated a report of a suspect car.

His fellow officer was hit multiple times but survived.

Mr McNicholl faces four further charges relating to the possession of explosives and firearms on February 16, 1976 at Garvagh, Co Derry.

The court heard that an RUC-issued firearm retrieved at that location had been taken during the ambush on Constable McPherson.

Asked on Wednesday morning if he knew about these offences, Mr McNicholl replied: “Ah, I do yeah,” the court was told.

The court heard that a relation of Mr McNicholl had offered to make a cash lodgement of €7,000.

There was also an independent surety available from Independent TD Thomas Pringle.

There was no objection to bail subject to Mr McNicholl undertaking to surrender all travel documents and sign on three times weekly at Letterkenny Garda Station.

Earlier, Mr O’Kane, who is wanted explosive charges linked to the same murder of a RUC officer, appeared before the High Court on foot of an extradition warrant.

The court heard the murdered officer’s gun was allegedly recovered from a farmhouse where Seamus Christopher O’Kane and two others were discovered hiding out in 1976.

Mr O’Kane, of Scalestown, Dunshaughlin in Co Meath but who is originally from Garvagh in Co Derry, is wanted by authorities in Northern Ireland on four offences as part of an investigation into the murder of 25-year-old Constable Robert John McPherson.

The extradition warrant states that on May 5, 1976 Mr O’Kane and others escaped from custody at the Maze prison prior to a decision being made to prosecute him for the four offences.

It adds that a military observation team identified suspicious activity at a farmhouse owned by a retired farmer.

During a search, explosive substances, firearms and ammunition were recovered. This included two electric detonators, two improvised pressure mat switches, two Walther pistols, one Browning pistol, a 0.22 rifle, a Remington shotgun and 104 rounds of ammunition.

“Seamus Christopher O’Kane and two other males were found hiding in an upstairs bedroom in the property and were subsequently arrested,” the warrant reads.

The warrant continues that Mr O’Kane was interviewed on February 17 1976, where he made a full admission to possessing the explosive substances, firearms and ammunition recovered from the property at Brockaghboy in Garvagh.

Mr O’Kane was granted bail on condition that he reside at Scalestown in Dunshaughlin, that he sign on three times a week at Ashbourne Garda Station, that he must obey a daily curfew of 9am to 9pm, provide a mobile phone number to gardai which he must carry at all times and not apply for any duplicate passport or travel documents.

Mr Justice McGrath fixed June 19 as the date for the next hearing of the extradition case.