Northern Ireland news

Lyra McKee murder accused 'cheered as shots fired' court hears

Lyra McKee was shot dead while she observed rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in April 2019

ONE of the men charged with the murder of Lyra McKee allegedly cheered and punched the air as the shots were fired, the High Court heard today.

It was also claimed that a co-accused escorted the gunman to and from the scene of the dissident republican killing in Derry.

The case against Gearoid Peter Cavanagh (33) and Jordan Devine (21) was set out as the prosecution mounted a challenge to the pair being granted bail.

But defence lawyers argued that charges based on fiercely disputed identification evidence were "doomed to failure".

Judgment was reserved in the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) appeal against a ruling that both men should be released from custody.

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead while she observed rioting in the Creggan area in April 2019.

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

Neither Cavanagh, of Elmwood Terrace in Derry, 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 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 Derry Magistrates' Court last week they were granted bail along with a third man, 21-year-old Joe Campbell from Gosheden Cottages in Derry, who is charged with rioting and petrol bomb offences on the night Ms McKee was killed.

Challenging those decisions, counsel for the PPS highlighted footage an MTV documentary crew recorded at the scene and earlier that day at dissident republican political party Saoradh's offices.

Robin Steer contended that Devine can be identified on the recordings standing close to the gunman.

"Jordan Devine's right arm is aloft, he's punching the air and cheering can be heard," he claimed.

"Devine continues to do this after the first shot is fired. Devine then throws a missile at police, he then steps back and raises his arm again."

According to the prosecution he was also involved in picking up misfired rounds from the ground.

The court heard Cavanagh is allegedly a masked figure seen in the footage accompanying the gunman to a street corner from where the shots were fired.

At one point he also appeared to be stewarding the crowd, it was claimed.

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 paramilitary punishment shootings in Derry between September 2018 and March 2019, the court heard.

However, defence representatives were scathing in their appraisal of the evidence, and questioned alleged identification from footage of individuals wearing mass-produced items of clothing.

Devine's barrister, Joe Brolly, predicted that the prosecution will face "multiple problems".

Counsel for Cavanagh argued that the criminal proceedings will eventually "disintegrate".

With His Honour Judge Stephen Fowler QC set to rule on the appeal later this week, all three defendants remain in custody.

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