Derry man in court on charges connected to RUC officer’s murder

A 39-year-old man has appeared at Derry Magistrate's Court today  charged in connection with the shooting dead of an RUC constable in 1993.

Christopher O'Kane of 107 Kular Court in Derry faced a total of five charges.

He was charged with assisting offenders in the killing of Constable Michael Ferguson between January 23 and 25 1993.

He also faced two attempted murder charges of soldiers on December 14 1993, another attempted murder of a soldier in May 2 1994 and membership of the Provisional IRA between January 1 1991 and December 31 1996.

O'Kane refused to stand when the charges were being read and also refused to acknowledge the court in any way and did not even confirm his identity.

A Detective Inspector told the court he believed he could connect O'Kane to the charges.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Shiels asked the inspector was he aware that O'Kane was 'a vulnerable individual' with mental health problems and the police officer said he was aware there were mental health issues.

The solicitor asked was it true that O'Kane was released from Gransha Hospital in Derry at 1 p.m. on Thursday and arrested that night and the Inspector said that was true and he also confirmed that police had been in touch with O'Kane during the three weeks he had been in Gransha.

Mr. Shiels said that his client had been in Gransha Hospital for mental health issues 15 times in the last four years.

The police officer was asked was this the first time O'Kane had made such admissions and was told it wasn't.

The court heard that in 2008 O'Kane had gone to Strand Road station in his bare feet and under the influence of drugs and alcohol and made similar admissions.

Mr. Shiels asked did the Prosecution Service decide then that the test for prosecution had not been met?
The Inspector said that was their decision then.

The solicitor also asked the Inspector was it true that the Forensic Medical Officer who initially examined O'Kane last week said he was unfit for interview.

The Inspector said that an expert psychiatrist had said O'Kane was fit. The police officer said that the defendant had made 'detailed admissions' not only to his involvement in the killing of Michael Ferguson but also to punishment attacks.

He agreed that O'Kane had also admitted several mortar attacks but denied that he had not been charged with these because police had doubts about his credibility.

He said he believed O'Kane was credible and that he could have been charged with up to 30 offences.
There was no application for bail but Mr. Shiels said there might be one next week.

O'Kane was remanded in custody to appear by videolink on October 25. Relatives of the defendant and of the dead RUC man were in court for the hearing but there were no incidents.