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Colleagues fear book is now closed on prosecution of Martin O’Hagan killers

By Dominic Ponsford

Colleagues of murdered Northern Ireland journalist Martin O’Hagan fear the eight-man murder gang who killed him 11 years ago may never now face trial.

The NI Director of Public Prosecutions revealed on Friday that evidence from supergrass Neil Hyde would not be sufficient on its own to secure the convictions of O’Hagan’s murderers.

A former colleague of O’Hagan’s told Press Gazette: “We’ve been told by reliable sources that as far as a prosecution goes, the book is closed.  All we can hope for now is that natural selection can take its course and these conspirators eliminate each other as they squabble over drug sales in Banbridge, Portadown and Lurgan.”

O’Hagan was murdered as he walked home from an evening out with his wife in Lurgan, County Armagh, in September 2001. Responsibility for his murder was claimed by the Red Hand Defenders (part of the Loyalist Volunteer Force).

He had a history of exposing the gangster activities of paramilitaries and had faced down numerous threats.

As then Irish Times security editor Jim Cusack put it in 2001: “Many people who purport to be fighting for Ulster or Ireland are just criminals intent on making money. When Marty exposed this they went berserk.”

The eight suspected killers of O’Hagan are well known in Northern Ireland and the Sunday World has closely chronicled their activities.

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He was killed in an organised assassination, thought to involve at least the eight alleged conspirators, which culminated in a drive-by shooting.

O’Hagan was the only journalist murdered by paramilitaries in the history of the modern Northern Ireland Troubles.

His family said on Friday: “This will not diminish in any way our resolve to continue to try to get justice for Martin."

National Union of Journalists Irish Secretary Seamus Dooley said: “This union does not accept that the State can walk away from this case. The murder of Martin O'Hagan was an outrageous act of violence which cannot go unpunished.

"We will continue to campaign for a full investigation leading to the conviction of those responsible for the murder of our friend and colleague.

"Martin's family, friends and colleagues remain determined to see justice done in this case."

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