THE only person serving a sentence for the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin is to stay behind bars, after Brian Meehan lost his appeal against his conviction.
The Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday dismissed Meehan's appeal against his conviction for murdering the Sunday Independent journalist 10 years ago.
Meehan (41), of Crumlin, in Dublin, was jailed for life by the Special Criminal Court seven years ago for the murder on June 26, 1996. He was also given concurrent jail sentences - of 20, 12, 10 and five years - for drugs and firearms offences. He appealed against all the convictions.
The Special Criminal Court found that Meehan was the driver of the motorbike from which a gunman fired six shots into Ms Guerin's body while she sat in her car at traffic lights on the Naas Road.
Meehan's counsel, Patrick Gageby, argued during the two-day appeal that the trial court should not have accepted evidence of telephone traffic between Meehan's mobile phone and Russell Warren's phone on the day of the murder as corroboration of Warren's evidence.
Warren, who is in the Witness Protection Programme, told the trial that he had followed Ms Guerin; he was in contact by mobile phone with Meehan, who was driving a stolen motorbike; and he saw the pillion passenger shoot Ms Guerin.
State counsel Peter Charleton submitted that the pattern and timing of the calls corroborated Warren's testimony. He said there were calls up to six minutes before the murder at 12.54pm and then only one call, at 1.23pm. All Warren's other calls after the murder were with John Gilligan - who was cleared of the Guerin murder but is serving a 20-year jail sentence for importing drugs.
In a 62-page written judgment, the court said: "Both the frequency and the pattern of phone calls is striking. The telephone calls at 12.33pm and 12.35pm to Brian Meehan support Russell Warren's evidence as to the time during which he was following the victim and pointing out where she was going.
"The pattern of telephone calls is entirely consistent with a 'search-and-follow' operation, and the timing of certain calls meshes very precisely with events on the ground as described by Russell Warren." The judgment added that there was abundant evidence that Meehan was a member of John Gilligan's gang, which imported drugs and firearms.
"In particular, the court was entitled to have regard to the evidence of motive for the killing of Veronica Guerin.
"In this case, there was clear evidence of the hatred exhibited by John Gilligan towards Veronica Guerin because of her journalistic endeavours in exposing those involved in drug dealing and drug importation, and, in particular, John Gilligan and his gang.
"Ms Guerin was to be the principal witness against John Gilligan arising out of an alleged assault perpetrated upon her by John Gilligan."
Meehan's appeal was delayed because of various appeals brought by Gilligan, whose final appeal against his drugs conviction was rejected by the Supreme Court in November last year.
Yesterday, Justice Nicholas Kearns said that the court dismissed all the appeals against conviction in Meehan's case.
Meehan showed no emotion after the ruling.
His father, Kevin Meehan, was in court, as was retired Det Supt Todd O' Loughlin, one of the main garda officers in the Guerin murder investigation.
The judgment said: "Modern Ireland is awash with illegal drugs and beset with the enormous social problems which attend their use.
"Gangland killings in connection with that trade have virtually become a daily occurrence.
"A Witness Protection Scheme may well provide one of the few effective ways of dealing with these activities. This must be kept in mind if the community's right to see serious crime being prosecuted is to be respected."