Murder accused refused bail to go to communion

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Murder accused Franics Lanigan, who lived under an assumed name in the Republic for 14 years and then fought an unsuccessful six-year extradition battle, has been refused bail to return to Dublin for his daughter’s first communion.

The former 55-year-old west Belfast kick-boxer is accused of the May 1998 murder of John Stephen Knocker, shot dead in the car park of the Glengannon Hotel in Dungannon, and possession of the 9mm Browning pistol said to have been used in the shooting.

Defence lawyer Barry Gibson said that Lanigan’s brother was prepared to lodge a cash surety in court, and to travel with him to Dublin and to remain with him over the weekend during the added family celebration.

Mr Gibson, while acknowledging Lanigan had absented himself, fleeing to the Republic, and contesting his extradition, said he felt “his life was very much under threat at the time by factors who saw him as responsible” for the murder. However, he added Lanigan had previously been on bail for over three years and had shown he could honour bail conditions.

Crown lawyer Robin Steer said Lanigan had absconded and had been living under an assumed name for 14 years, obtaining a driving licence, bank account, and national insurance number. Then, when eventually arrested, he fought his extradition, claiming that as a republican he would not get a fair trial.

Refusing bail, Mr Justice Colton said despite the “well founded and well presented” bona fide application, there was a clear history where Lanigan had absconded and obtained a new identity.

Mr Justice Colton added that he could not ignore his previous history, pointing to the risk of absconding.

A previous court heard Lanigan’s days on the run, living and working in Dublin as self-employed barber Ciaran McCrory, came to an end with his arrest in January 2013 after a DNA test on a coffee cup seized by an undercover Garda detective established his true identity.

Although a European Arrest Warrant was issued, it was challenged, reaching even the European Court of Justice.