Northern Ireland news

John Downey: Double murder accused set to mount a legal bid to get the case thrown out

John Downey. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

A 67-year-old man charged with murdering two British soldiers in 1972 is set to mount a legal bid to get the case thrown out, a court heard yesterday.

John Downey's lawyer confirmed plans to contest prosecution attempts to have him stand trial for the car bomb attack which killed UDR members Alfred Johnston and James Eames in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh.

Concerns were raised about a European Arrest Warrant used to detain him in the Republic in October last year.

Defence solicitor John Finucane told Belfast Magistrates' Court: "Even without exploring these issues (the committal proceedings) are going to be contested."

Downey, with an address in Creeslough, Co Donegal, faces prosecution after losing an extradition battle.

He exhausted all appeals before handing himself in to the authorities last month.

Lance Corporal Johnston and Private Eames died in an explosion on the Irvinestown Road in August 1972.

They were carrying out checks on a car when a command wire initiated device was detonated, killing them instantly.

Downey is also charged with aiding and abetting an explosion likely to endanger life.

A previous court was told his fingerprint was allegedly found on insulating tape used to construct the device.

Although the original impression has since degraded, photographs of it were said to have been used in "multiple comparisons".

They included analysis carried out on prints taken from Downey earlier this month, and also after his arrest at Gatwick Airport in 2013 for the 1982 bombing at London's Hyde Park.

He had been due to stand trial for the murder of four Royal Household Cavalry men in the Hyde Park attack.

But the case against him collapsed after it emerged that he received a letter of assurance from the British Government that he was not wanted for any offences.

The prosecution now intends to rely on the fingerprints taken at Gatwick as evidence in the current case.

Downey remains in custody after being refused bail at the High Court in Belfast.

His case is due to be reviewed again later this month, when a date for a preliminary enquiry was expected to be set.

But it emerged yesterday that the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is seeking to bring those proceedings forward by a week.

Mr Finucane expressed opposition to the move, and sought approval for two barristers to represent his client due to the circumstances and complexities of the case.

"There are issued that have arisen as a result of having sight of the papers," he told the court.

"There's also an issue which has arisen with regards to the European Arrest Warrant itself."

Adjourning the case, District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to certify two defence counsel.

She said: "It's a unique and highly complex case."

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