The Irish republican charged with murdering Lyra McKee allegedly grabbed the empty casings from the bullets that killed her – but wasn’t the masked gunman, a court heard today.
Paul McIntyre, 52, is accused of killing Miss McKee, 29, who was shot dead while observing a riot on Londonderry’s Creggan estate in April.
Outside the city’s magistrates’ court McIntyre raised his arms to supporters waving ‘political prisoner’ placards who later scuffled with up to 40 police officers minutes after the journalist’s partner Sara Canning arrived to see the alleged killer in the dock.
When the charges were put to McIntyre on Wednesday he replied: ‘I did not murder anyone. If police speak to witnesses it will show it was not me.’
Police in Northern Ireland [PSNI] say the decision to put McIntyre in court came after talks with senior legal counsel and prosecutors who agreed there was enough evidence to charge him with murder.
Detectives are relying five hours of video captured by a MTV crew fronted by the broadcaster Reggie Yates who were filming in Creggen when republicans started throwing petrol bombs and shooting at police.
McIntyre is accused of picking up casings from the bullets used to kill Lyra and a man wearing his clothes and matching his description is seen doing so in a ‘snapshot’ of low-quality mobile phone footage, the court heard.
During a 50-minute hearing this afternoon, McIntyre’s defence lawyer Derwin Harvey said: ‘The allegation against Mr McIntyre is that Mr McIntyre is at this riot and a male shoots the gun and that Mr McIntyre, after the gun was shot, picks up the cases’.
He told the court that his client denied involvement in the murder more than 50 times during police interviews, adding: ‘There is no clear evidence linking Mr McIntyre to this event.’
Paul McIntyre, from Londonderry, raises his arms to supporter as he arrived at court where he is accused of killing LyraMcKee, 29, who was shot dead while observing a riot in the city in April. He denies murdering the journalist
Up to 40 of McIntyre’s supporters were outside Londonderry Magistrates and clashed with police when they were asked to move
Lyra’s death appalled Britain and Ireland and has been credited with creating political impetus to restablish power sharing in Northern Ireland. Her partner Sara Canning was at court today
Lyra McKee’s sister Nichola Corner and her husband John Corner leaving Londonderry Magistrates’ Court where Paul McIntyre, 52, appeared charged with the murder
Miss McKee was standing near a police vehicle when she was hit by a bullet fired by a masked gunman towards officers 10 months ago.
The Belfast-based writer was living in Londonderry with her partner, Sara Canning, who also arrived at court on Thursday morning.
The journalist’s sister Nichola Corner was among several people in the public gallery wearing T-shirts emblazoned with her picture.
The court heard a lengthy defence submission applying for bail, but the judge adjourned the hearing until he receives further information from the prosecution about the evidence linking McIntyre to the charges.
A PSNI detective, who said she could connect McIntyre to the charges, outlined the extent of evidence police had examined in the last nine months.
Senior legal counsel consulted by prosecutors had concluded that the test for prosecution had been met.
The detective objected to bail on the grounds of potential interfering with witnesses, risk of further offending and of fleeing the jurisdiction.
McIntyre appeared before a judge in May last year charged with riotous behaviour and arson.
His lawyer said the crux of the case against him was an expert report that compared clothing worn by the man seen picking up the bullet casings with two clips of footage of McIntyre in Londonderry earlier in the day.
He said the key items of clothing were a pair of Adidas trainers, O’Neill’s tracksuit bottoms and a black cap.
He highlighted that the expert who compiled the report did not definitively state that the person picking up the casings was McIntyre, instead saying the person was a ‘suitable candidate’ for matching the accused’s appearance.
He said two witnesses police had spoken to described McIntyre as being between 5’8 and 5’10 tall. He added that his client was 5’2, representing a ‘massive discrepancy’.
Supporters of McIntyre today held placards saying he is a ‘political hostage’ and a ‘British scapegoat’ scuffled with up to 40 police officers as they refused to move from the entrance to the city’s magistrates’ court this morning.
His lawyer Mr Harvey said footage that showed a man picking up bullet casings was a ‘matter of seconds’ long and taken on a mobile phone rather than high-definition MTV cameras. He noted the film crew had left the scene by that stage.
Supporters of Paul McIntyre outside Londonderry Magistrates’ Court where they claim he is a political prisoner
The group was accused of blocking access to the court, which led to scuffles with the police
Officers formed a line outside the gates where McIntyre was cheered as he arrived with police in a Range Rover
The lawyer said there were insurmountable obstacles to a charge of murder by joint enterprise.
District Judge Barney McElholm expressed concern about sinister graffiti in the Creggan area where Ms McKee was killed and ‘vile’ posters showing a badly wounded police officer.
He said those behind such incidents were doing McIntyre ‘no good whatsoever’ but his main concern was that everyone was ‘treated fairly’ in the case.
The judge said: ‘A young woman with her entire life ahead of her, and it was a very promising life, was murdered mindlessly and pointlessly; like all other murders carried out in this country.
‘It is also very important that the murderers of Lyra McKee are brought to justice but we need to get the right people and every person deserves a fair trial.’
He asked prosecutors to provide further information about issues related to height and biometric testing and points Mr Harvey had raised about witnesses who could potentially exonerate his client.
McIntyre will next appear in court on February 27.
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Lyra McKee at her funeral at St. Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast in April last year
Ms McKee was shot dead while observing disorder in the Creggan area of Derry on April 19, 2019 (crime scene pictured)
Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards, the first couple to be legally married in a same-sex couple in Northern Ireland, are pictured kissing in front of a tribute wall to Lyra McKee in Belfast
In a statement on Wednesday, Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy said: ‘I have always said a number of individuals were involved with the gunman on the night Lyra was killed, and while today is significant for the investigation the quest for the evidence to bring the gunman to justice remains active and ongoing.’
Ms McKee was a gay rights activist and an articulate advocate of a new and more tolerant Northern Ireland and part of the generation which reached adulthood during peace time. She wrote for publications including Private Eye and Buzzfeed.
Her funeral was attended by then prime minister Theresa May, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Irish President Michael D Higgins at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
Catholic priest Fr Martin Magill received a standing ovation when he asked why it took her death to unite politicians.
Days later the British and Irish governments announced a new talks process aimed at restoring devolution.
Powersharing was resurrected last month and the first same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland took place this week.
McIntyre is also charged with possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and professing to be a member of a proscribed organisation.
The New IRA said it carried out the killing.