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United Kingdom / Northern Ireland17 September 2008

Four men charged in Martin O’Hagan murder case

Four men arrested on 9 September 2008 in the investigation into the 2001 murder of journalist Martin O’Hagan appeared yesterday before a magistrates’ court in Lisburn, near Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Two of them, Neil Hyde and Nigel William Leckey, were accused of the killing of the investigative journalist on the Sunday World newspaper, who was shot dead as he walked home from the pub with his wife in Lurgan, County Armagh on 28 September 2001.

A third man, Robin Andrew King, described as a leading member of the paramilitary Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in Mid-Ulster, was charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice and destruction of evidence. The fourth, Mark Kennedy, was accused of preventing their arrests by hiding the getaway car.

Hyde, Leckey and King were remanded in custody until the next hearing on 10 October. Kennedy was granted bail.

“We hail the work of the police and the resumption of the investigation into the murder of Martin O’Hagan”, Reporters Without Borders said. “It is vital that the courts continue the work of identifying the perpetrators and those behind this murder. The impunity which has characterised this case for seven years, must end”, the worldwide press freedom organisation added.

A murder attempt against O’Hagan ordered by terrorist Billy Wright in the 1990s failed. The journalist wrote about crime, particularly drug-trafficking and had given evidence in a trial centring on collusion between police and protestant paramilitaries.

The initial investigation into the journalist’s murder was fiercely criticised for having systematically ignored the link between the killing and his work, while before his death O’Hagan was known to have been working on a book. Eight men were questioned by police in December 2006. Chief Inspector Charles Patterson said that he was convinced they were implicated in the journalist’s murder but they were released for lack of evidence.

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