Two police officers have told a preliminary inquiry hearing into the murder of journalist Lyra McKee they are able to identify the alleged killer by his gait, stance and build.
Ms McKee was shot dead by a New IRA gunman while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry almost four years ago. The police officers were giving evidence on the first day of the hearing at Derry magistrates' court.
The hearing before District Judge Ted Magill will decide whether the evidence against two men charged with killing Ms McKee,29, is sufficient to put them on trial for the murder. Ms McKee died instantly when she was wounded in the head when the masked gunman fired up to twelve shots towards police officers during rioting on the night of April 18, 2019.
Two men, Peter Cavanagh, 34, from Elmwood Terrace and Jordan Devine, 22, from Bishop Street have been charged with murdering Ms McKee. Both deny the charge. The hearing also involves six other men who have been charged with other public order offences linked to Ms McKee's death.
They are Joe Barr, 33, from Cecilia's Walk, Joseph Campbell, 21, from Goshaden Cottages, William Elliott, 55, from Ballymagowan Gardens, Patrick Gallagher, 29, from Pinetrees, Kieran McCool, 53, from Ballymagowan Gardens and Jude McCrory, 25, from Magowan Park.
In his evidence a PSNI sergeant told Mr Magill that he took part in controlled viewings of moving and still images from the scene of Ms McKee's killing.
He said the purpose of the controlled viewings was to potentially obtain evidence. He said he was able to identify the defendant Cavanagh even though the footage showed a man who was masked and with only his eyes visible. Asked by defence barrister Stephen Mooney how he could identify a person who wore a mask, the police officer replied "I recognised Mr Cavanagh in this footage through his gait and stance" in terms of how the masked man in the footage walked and moved. Asked what was different about the defendant's gait and stance, the police witness said: "I have no doubt it is Mr Cavanagh". The police witness said he also accessed the defendant Cavanagh's custody profile and record prior to the viewing to enable him to have the most up to date information about the defendant. He confirmed that during one of the viewings he said "that's Pete Cavanagh" in the presence of other officers. The sergeant said he was attached to the PSNI's District Support Team and his relevant duties included detecting and disrupting dissident republican activities through stop and search operations and by submitting sighting reports.
He said over the last seven years he had dealt with and sighted the defendant many times and "there is something about his gait and stance which enabled me to identify Mr Cavanagh". Meanwhile a second police witness, a constable, told the hearing that he had made nine statements in relation to the events surrounding the journalist's death. He said because of his previous dealings with the defendant Cavanagh, he was able to identify him by his gait and by the way he walked. Asked by Mr Mooney if the defendant's gait had any distinguishing aspects, the officer replied "he carries himself in a rigid fashion that enables me to recognise him".
Asked if he was an expert on gait, stance and build, the witness said he was not. The hearing continues.
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