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04 Oct 2022

Derry man jailed for possessing the gun used to kill the journalist Lyra McKee

He was given an extended sentence of seven years and ordered to sign the Anti-terrorism regulations for a period of 15 years

Derry man jailed for possessing the gun used to kill the journalist Lyra McKee

The weapon had been used in five incidents in the city over the previous 21 months including the shooting of Lyra McKee on April 18 2019

A man who admitted possessing the gun used to kill the journalist Lyra McKee has been jailed for an extended sentence of seven years.

Niall Sheerin (29) of Tyrconnell Street in Derry admitted possessing the Hammerli pistol on dates between September 11 2018 and June 6 2020.

The court heard that police and the British Army were involved in a search in the Ballymagroarty area of Derry and found the pistol and some ammunition wrapped in bin bags. 

The gun was said to have been 'in good condition' and the defendant's DNA was found on the weapon. 

Forensic tests revealed that the weapon had been used in five incidents in the city over the previous 21 months including the shooting of Lyra McKee on April 18 2019.

It was also found the weapon had been used in several so called punishment shootings in the city. 

Lyra McKee was sadly fatally shot whilst covering rioting in the Creggan area of Derry in 2019.

Judge Stephen Fowler said that on the night the journalist had been shot there had been 'orchestrated disorder' with rioting and petrol bombs thrown at police. 

The judge said Sheerin's plea had been accepted on the basis that he had possession of the weapon with intent to enable others to endanger life. 

He said that the defendant was aware he was holding the weapon on behalf of a terrorist organisation namely the New IRA. 

The judge said Sheerin may not have been aware of the specific history of the weapon including the fact that it had been used to kill Lyra McKee. 

He said that Sheerin had previous convictions for rioting and resisting police. 

Judge Fowler said that the 'test for dangerousness' had been met and so any sentence had to both 'punish and protect'. 

He said while this was a 'very serious offence' the defendant may not remain dangerous for an extended period of time. 

Sheerin was said to have been aware of the nature of the terrorist organisation but the judge added there 'was no evidence he held any organisational role within the group.' 

He imposed an extended sentence of seven years and ordered Sheerin to sign the Anti-terrorism regulations for a period of 15 years. 

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