There was a heavy security presence at Derry Magistrate’s Court today when a 52-year-old man appeared charged with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee on April 18 last.
Paul McIntyre whose address was given as Kinnego Park in Derry was charged with the murder of Lyra McKee, possessing a handgun and ammunition with intent to endanger life and membership of the IRA.
McIntyre only spoke to confirm his identity.
A police officer connected McIntyre to the charges and opposed bail.
She told the court this was’a major investigation using MTV footage, witness statements, police statements and mobile phone evidence.
She said the Public Prosecution Service had decided the evidence passed the test for prosecution.
She opposed bail on the grounds there could be interference with witnesses after some statements had been put to McIntyre that hadn’t been put previously. She said these statements do not identify McIntyre but they were ‘pieces of the jigsaw.’ The officer said there was a risk of re-offending and fear of flight.
Defence solicitor Derwin Harvey said it was ‘an unusual case’ in that he would be opposing the connection to the murder charge. He said McIntyre first appeared in connection to the rioting on April 18 on May 11 last year.
He said his client was released on bail in October.
Mr Harvey said that he believed there was ‘scant evidence to connect McIntyre to the charges.’
He said it was being suggested by the prosecution that McIntyre was the man leaning down retrieving the shells after the shooting. The solicitor said a report from a photographic expert had been presented to the court in October when McIntyre was granted bail. This report purported to identify McIntyre from clothing linking it to clothing he had been wearing earlier in the day.
Mr Harvey said there was ‘no DNA evidence, no fingerprint evidence, no ballistic evidence, no gun residue evidence, no biometric evidence, no voice evidence or cellular evidence’ to connect his client to the charges.
The court was told that McIntyre had adhered to all his bail conditions and had not tried to flee in the interim.
Pointing out some of the alleged discrepancies in the prosecution case the solicitor said two witnesses to the hijacking identified the perpetrator as being between 5’8″ to 5’10” while his client was 5’2″. He said his client’s reply after being charged was significant in that he said: “I did not murder anyone if police speak to witnesses it will show it wasn’t me.”
Mr Harvey said that his client further claimed that one of the witnesses knew him and would be able to say it wasn’t him. As regards the clothing Mr Harvey said that it was ‘mass produced’ and added that on 52 occasions his client had denied being the person identified in the photographs.
The solicitor said the photographic expert seemed to have no scientific training and there were no ‘scientific conclusions’ only that McIntyre was ‘a suitable candidate’ to be identified as the man picking up the shells.
Mr Harvey said this was ‘the only evidence as regards the murder charge.’
District Judge Barney McElholm asked what was the clothing being suggested and was told it was Addida shoes, O’Neill tracksuit and a black hat. The solicitor said it was hard to see ‘this case getting off the ground’.
Judge McElholm said: “My concern is to ensure everyone is treated fairly.
“I am very conscious a young woman with a very promising life in front of her has been murdered needlessly and pointlessly like all the other murders in this country.
“While it is important the murderers of Lyra McKee are brought to justice we have to get the right people.”
The judge said he was going to adjourn the bail application to allow the police to investigate the lines of inquiry flagged up by the defence.
He said he wanted the police to look at the issue of the height of the defendant, the biometric evidence and the witness McIntyre said would exonerate him.
In the meantime he adjourned the case until February 27 and remanded McIntyre in custody.
Friends and relatives of Lyra McKee including her partner Sara Canning were in court with some of them wearing ‘we stand by Lyra’ T-shirts but there were no incidents.
Outside the courthouse several dozen supporters of McIntyre carrying placards clashed briefly with police.