Locked up | 

Man who admitted possessing gun used to kill journalist Lyra McKee jailed for seven years

Niall Sheerin (29) from Tyrconnell Street in the city admitted possessing the Hammerli pistol between September 11, 2018, and June 6, 2020.

Niall Sheerin, who has been jailed for possessing the gun used to shoot journalist Lyra McKee

Lyra McKee

A photo issued by PSNI of the gun used to kill journalist Lyra McKee© PA

A police officer lays flowers at the scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee© PA

Independent.ie NewsdeskIndependent.ie

A man who admitted possession of the gun used to kill the journalist Lyra McKee in Derry has been jailed for seven years.

Niall Sheerin (29) from Tyrconnell Street in the city admitted possessing the Hammerli pistol between September 11, 2018, and June 6, 2020.

Ms McKee was shot dead while covering rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in 2019.

Earlier this month, Sheerin appeared at Belfast Crown Court where his barrister made the case the plea to possessing the handgun was on the grounds that he 'warehoused' it for a short period - but was unaware of its history.

Ms McKee - a 29-year old journalist and author - died after being struck by a bullet fired at police during rioting in the Creggan area of the city in April 2019.

Lyra McKee

The New IRA subsequently claimed responsibility for the fatal shooting.

Prior to the murder, the handgun had been used in four dissident republican attacks in Derry and was located during a planned search over a year after her death.

A Crown barrister revealed that on June 5, 2020, police and the Army carried out a search at fields in the Whitehouse Road area of Derry,

A plastic binliner was found in a hole in the ground behind a telegraph pole, and the handgun and an empty magazine were located within a second bag in the binliner, along with loose rounds of ammunition.

The items were removed, underwent forensic testing and Sheerin's DNA was located on two areas of the weapon.

A photo issued by PSNI of the gun used to kill journalist Lyra McKee© PA

The Crown barrister said: "The first profile was at least one billion times more likely to have originated from the defendant than an unrelated male chosen at random."

He also revealed that when found, the gun was in "good condition" and there was "firing residue in the barrel which indicated "it hasn't been cleaned since it was last fired."

As a result of the DNA evidence, Sheerin was arrested at 7am on July 15, 2022. He gave no reply when cautioned and was interviewed seven times, during which he remained completely silent.

During the sixth interview, the father-of-three provided a written statement where he denied involvement in dissident republican activity linked to the gun.

A police officer lays flowers at the scene in Derry following the death of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee© PA

Sheerin also denied both rioting in the Fanad Drive area of Derry the night Ms McKee lost her life and having any involvement in her murder.

In the statement, the bookmaker also denied touching or handling the gun and claimed he was 'at a loss' as to how his DNA was found on it.

He later admitted possessing .22 calibre Hammerli self-loading pistol, magazine and a quantity of .22 calibre cartridges with intent to enable another person to endanger life or cause serious damage to property on dates between September 22, 2018 and June 6, 2020.

The Crown barrister told Mr Justice Fowler whilst it could not be established Sheerin was aware of the specific history of this weapon, it was the Crown's case that he was aware of dissident republican activity in Derry at the relevant time,

Regarding this issue, defence barrister Kieran Mallon QC addressed the "misconception" of Sheerin's involvement with the gun - and again stressed his client was not in Creggan the night Ms McKee was murdered.

Mr Mallon also pointed his client had "no knowledge of the specific history of the firearm" - but by his plea, Sheerin accepted "he came in to contact with it some time afterwards." The barrister added his client was a hard-working family man.

More to follow...


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