A man was wrongly convicted of murdering a part-time police officer 32 years ago on the basis of DNA found on cigarette butts recovered from the scene, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.
Seamus Kearney’s lawyers argued that the judge in the non-jury trial mistakenly accepted uncorroborated evidence that the stubs were clean and fresh when retrieved.
Kearney, 57, of Gorteade Road, Maghera, Co Londonderry, was sentenced to at least 20 years in jail last month for the murder of John Proctor.
Mr Proctor, a 25-year-old RUC Reserve Constable, was shot dead by the IRA minutes after visiting his wife and newborn son at Magherafelt Hospital in September 1981.
Kearney had denied murder and possessing an Armalite AR15 rifle. But a judge found him guilty after hearing key evidence that his DNA profile was on a cigarette butt found among spent bullet casings at the scene.
He was held to be either the gunman, the driver of a Ford Escort RS200 used by the killers, or an occupant of the car present to provide support.
Even though Kearney is expected to serve only two years of his jail term under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, he mounted a challenge to both the conviction and sentence.
Following submissions the three appeal judges, Lord Justice Girvan, Lord Justice Coghlin and Mr Justice Weatherup, reserved their verdict.