Man guilty of Donegal IRA murder

 

A Northern Ireland man has been found guilty by the Special Criminal of the dissident republican murder of a man in Co Donegal almost four years ago.

Martin Kelly (37), a bus driver, of Barrack Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone was convicted of the murder of Andrew Burns (27), an unemployed man, at Donnyloop, Castlefin, Co Donegal on February 12th, 2008.

Kelly had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Burns, who was shot twice in the by a gunman linked to the dissident republican group, Óglaigh na hÉireann.

“The court is satisfied beyond doubt that the accused was part of a joint enterprise, the object of which was to cause serious injury to the late Mr Burns and that he is thereby guilty of murder,” said Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding.

The court ruled last month that statements made by Kelly to gardaí in which he admitted driving Mr Burns (27), a painter and decorator from Strabane, across the border to Co Donegal where he was shot dead were admissible in evidence.

Kelly was also found guilty of the unlawful possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life on the same date.

The shooting was heard by a group of five young people from Clady, Co Tyrone who were walking in the area.

Kelly’s trial began in early October. After two days of evidence the court started a “trial within a trial” to decide on the admissibility of statements made by Kelly while in custody in Letterkenny and a statement he made to two senior gardai at a hotel in Northern Ireland.

Prosecuting counsel Tom O’Connell SC told the trial Kelly was part of a joint enterprise or plot to lure Mr Burns to Donnyloop on the pretext that he was required to go on an IRA operation in which it was intended to murder a PSNI officer who was dating a girl in Donnyloop.

When they got to Donnyloop, they were met by three men who were known as members of Óglaigh na hÉireann.

The court was shown a video recording of when Kelly was interviewed by Chief Supt Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Supt Kevin English at a hotel in Ballymena, Co Antrim on March 11th, 2010.

Kelly said that a week before the murder he was approached by Mr A who asked him to take Andrew Burns to Donnyloop for “a punishment beating or shooting”. He met Mr A the next day and he told him that Mr B and Mr C would be there for the shooting.

Kelly told the officers that he knew it was “an IRA operation” and he said he had done other jobs for the IRA but had never been sworn in himself. He said that on the day of the murder, he picked up Mr Burns in Strabane and drove him in his car to Donnyloop car park.

When they got there he saw a red van. Mr Burns got out of the car went to the van but came back. Mr Burns got back in the car and he drove out of the car park, waited about five minutes and then drove back into the car park.

Mr Burns got out of the car and then Mr A walked past him. Then Mr B approached Mr Burns and went to pull the trigger of his gun but the gun jammed. Mr Burns started to run towards the car park exit, the gunman, Mr B, ran after him and fired a shot which injured him.

Kelly said Mr Burns stumbled but kept running towards the church. Mr B chased him and fired a second shot.

Kelly said his three associates got back into the car and Mr C shouted at him to keep calm, to drive out of the car park slowly and keep the lights off. He said he could see that Mr Burns had stumbled and was lying on the road at that stage.

Kelly said he drove to Clady village where Mr B handed him the revolver inside a black plastic bag and told him to dispose of it. He put it in the side of a hedge. He then drove the three men to the Fir Trees Hotel in Strabane where he left them. He told the gardaí he had known Mr A “all my life”, Mr B for 15 years and Mr C for 10 years.

Kelly told the court during the “trial within a trial” that after his arrest when he was taken to Letterkenny Garda station he was in fear for his life.

“There were certain people connected with dissident republicans who were interested to find out what the police were asking me,” he said.

The court remanded Kelly in custody for sentencing on January 24th.