Alleged IRA bomber John Downey refused bail after extradition to the UK

Alleged IRA bomber John Downey refused bail after extradition to the UK

A man accused of killing two British soldiers in Fermanagh has been refused bail after his extradition to the UK.

John Downey, whose trial for the IRA’s Hyde Park bombing collapsed in controversy five years ago, is wanted by prosecutors in Northern Ireland over the murders of two Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers in 1972.

Downey handed himself in to Letterkenny Garda Station yesterday after he lost an appeal to challenge the extradition in July this year.

The 67-year-old appeared at Omagh Magistrates’ Court on Saturday morning in front of District Judge Michael Ranaghan.

Flight risk

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell told the court: “Police object to bail for the defendant on the grounds that he is a flight risk.

“The defendant did not consent to be extradited and appealed to High Court in Dublin.”

Mr Caldwell went on to list the number of hearings Downey had gone through to fight extradition in the Irish Republic, before stating: “In light of all of this, police are of the view the defendant doesn’t want to face trial in Northern Ireland.”

Judge Ranaghan took a recess in his chamber for several minutes before making his decision, and said: “This is far from straightforward.

“There are a number of matters that point toward granting bail, I have considered Mr Downey’s age and health, and the strength of the evidence.

“This will be a long and protracted matter with numerous pretrial issues.

“On the other side of the coin, the charge couldn’t be more grave.

“I am conducting a risk assessment here in the circumstances, and I find he is a flight risk, and so I do refuse bail."

Downey was arrested at his home in Donegal in October last year under a European Arrest Warrant after authorities in Northern Ireland determined they had sufficient evidence to charge him with the murders of Lance Corporal Alfred Johnston, 32, and Private James Eames, 33.

The soldiers died in a car bomb attack in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in August 1972.

In 2013, Downey was charged with murdering four Royal Household Cavalrymen in a bomb attack in London’s Hyde Park in 1982.

He was tried at the Old Bailey in 2014 but the case dramatically collapsed after it was revealed he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair’s government that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.

The letter was allegedly issued under the terms of the controversial On The Runs (OTRs) scheme.