No charges over murder of journalist shot dead in front of wife
Published 26/01/2013 | 05:00
EIGHT people investigated over the murder of a journalist will not be prosecuted because of concerns about a key witness's evidence, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the North has said.
'Sunday World' reporter Martin O'Hagan (51) was shot dead by loyalists in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in September 2001.
Witness Neil Hyde gave an account to police which could not be independently verified, the prosecuting authority said.
DPP Barra McGrory said: "The prosecution of any of the accused would depend on the evidence of Neil Hyde. Having regard to all the circumstances, it has been concluded that, in the absence of corroboration, the available evidence is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any individual."
Mr O'Hagan worked for the Dublin-based 'Sunday World' and built a reputation for covering paramilitary and drugs-related stories.
He was shot dead as he returned from a pub in his home town. Marie O'Hagan escaped death when her husband pushed her into a hedge to protect her.
During the police investigation, a suspect, Neil Hyde, indicated that he was willing to assist the authorities. He was interviewed by detectives about the killing and his involvement.
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) prosecuted him for a range of offences in connection with the murder, which was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
Hyde was jailed for three years last February. The judge told him that if he had not agreed to identify the alleged culprits in Mr O'Hagan's murder and give evidence about the LVF he would have got 18 years.
The PPS is now considering whether Hyde should be referred back to court so that his sentence can be reviewed.
The 'Sunday World's' northern editor Jim McDowell said he was disappointed and angry.
He said: "Myself and the staff have worked hard since that black Friday to get justice for Martin O'Hagan. While there there may be a law in this country, where is the justice?"
Mr McDowell said the announcement had come as a complete shock both to him and to Mr O'Hagan's family.
However, he added: "This will not diminish in any way our resolve to continue to try to get justice for Martin."