1981 murder case against Swatragh man ‘collapses’

A SOUTH Derry man accused of murdering an RUC reserve constable in a car park at the Mid-Ulster Hospital more than 30 years ago has had the charge dismissed, the MAIL can reveal.

The case against 55-year-old Seamus Martin Kearney, of Gorteade Road, Swatragh, collapsed at Laganside Court in Belfast last Friday.

A further charge of possessing an armalite rifle with intent to endanger life was also dismissed by the court.

Father-of-two reserve constable John Proctor (25), of Upperlands, had just visited his wife June and their newborn baby son in the Magherafelt hospital when he was shot dead by an IRA gunman in the car park on September 14 1981.

The case against Kearney, who has catogorically denied both charges since his first appearance before Londonderry Magistrates Court in September 2010, was based on evidence from DNA recovered from a cigarette butt found at the murder scene together with 13 bullet cases.

The defence had argued that the cigarette end had been found in a heavily populated public area and was discovered two days after the murder. It was also put forward by the defence that no forensic tent had been erected to protect the crime scene.

A legal application by the defendant’s lawyers at Laganside Court was acceded to by Law Justice Weir who ruled that the DNA evidence against Kearney was insufficient to allow the case to proceed to trial.

Speaking after the court hearing Stephen Atherton, solicitor, of John J. McNally & Co, Magherafelt, said it was now open to the Prosecution Service to decide their next move.

“Any attempt by the prosecution to resurrect the case will be vigorously challenged at each and every stage,” Mr Atherton added.