Derry man Seamus Doherty has been cleared of charges of having a booby trap car bomb, just 24 hours before a police informer was due to give evidence in the trial.
The DPP’s decision came as the Crown case against Doherty was about to close and his defence team were due to call who they described as “a covert human intelligence source”, Kevin Byrne, to give evidence.
Prosecution QC told Belfast Crown Court he had been instructed to give “offer no further evidence” against Derry man James Doherty.
Mr Doherty denied ever having handled a bomb. His lawyers have claimed from the outset that the DNA on the bomb was planted. He had been arrested on an unrelated matter six weeks prior to the discovery of the bomb in Newry, and swabs taken from him.
During the trial, the court heard that traces of semtex were found on Byrne’s right hand, under his finger nails and on his clothing, leading the officer in charge of the case, Detective Chief Inspector Derek Williamson, to concede that the police informer could have been involved in the construction and/or transport of the bomb.
He also said he could not rule out the possibility that Doherty’s DNA, to which the PSNI had access, had been planted on the inside of the lid of the lunch box booby trap bomb.
Mr Williamson also controversially admitted asking a senior forensic explosives expert to change his statement so that no mention was made of the informer Byrne.
As he was released from the dock, Mr Doherty’s friends and family in the public gallery clapped and cheered.
Outside the court a representative of Doherty’s legal firm, Kevin Winters and Co., said the evidence had showed that the police agent “was at least partially responsible for the construction and transportation of the bomb”, adding that Doherty had “consistently denied” involvment.
Doherty said he had maintained “from the start that I had been set up”.
It was the third trial to collapse in the case. British forces were also accused of conspiring to frame two other men, Martin Brogan and Mark Carroll. The men from South Down were also held in connection with the bomb find, but both subsequently had all charges dropped.