High Court

High Court orders extradition of man living in Louth wanted in respect of double murder in Northern Ireland

High Court

Olga Cronin

Reporter:

Olga Cronin

High Court orders extradition of man living in Louth wanted in respect of double murder in Northern Ireland

The High Court has ordered the extradition of a man wanted in respect of a double murder in Northern Ireland 12 years ago.

Gerard Lagan (35) originally from Belfast, with an address at Shamrock Grove, Dunleer, Co Louth, is facing charges in connection with the murders of Edward Burns and Joseph Jones in Belfast.

The men's bodies were found hours apart in the city on the morning of March 12th, 2007.

Mr Burns, aged 36, from Ardoyne in north Belfast, was found shot in the head in a car park near a GAA club at Bog Meadows off the Falls Road, at around 4.30am. Mr Jones, aged 38, from Poleglass in West Belfast, was found battered to death in an alleyway in Ardoyne at around 7.45am.

John Berry BL, for Mr Lagan, told the judge that he and his client will consider the judgement this weekend.

Mr Lagan was brought before Mr Justice Tony O'Connor in the High Court last month, on foot of a European Arrest Warrant seeking his surrender to authorities in Northern Ireland following his arrest in Dunleer.

In his judgement today, Mr Justice Hunt quoted a section of the EAW which, he said, “clearly communicates that the case made against him [Lagan] is based on circumstantial evidence suggesting at least that he was an organiser of these events”.

He also quoted from a follow-up statement of facts which were provided after the Minister for Justice sought more information from the Public Prosecution Service of Northern Ireland.

The latter document states that it’s the prosecution’s case that Mr Lagan lured the two men from their homes, via telephone calls, so that they would be killed.

The statement alleges that cell site data “is consistent with Gerard Lagan’s location at both murder scenes at the relevant times and with his movements from and to significant locations including to the vicinity of his own address before and after the Jones’ murder”.

It states Mr Lagan, the late Declan Smith (32) from Belfast, and Gerard Mackin (37) from west Belfast - who was convicted for the murder of Edward Burns in the Special Criminal Court on November 28th 2008 but whose conviction was quashed on appeal - moved to Dublin shortly after the murders.

They left their families, partners, children and jobs while all three men stopped using their mobile phones on March 12th, 2007.

Mr Smith, the statement notes, was murdered in Donaghmede, Co Dublin, in March 2014.

The statement of facts concludes: “It is the prosecution’s case that Lagan made telephone calls to both men [Mr Burns and Mr Jones] on the morning of the 12th of March 2007 with the intention of luring them from their homes so that they would be attacked and killed and that he was present in Elmfield Street at the time of the attack on Jones and that he enlisted the assistance of Smith after the murder of Edward Burns had taken place.”

Mr Lagan opposed his extradition on several grounds including delay and previous decisions not to prosecute him.

He also argued that there was a possible breach of his rights when police accessed and analysed mobile phone data between 2015 and 2018.

In a 33-page written judgement, Mr Justice Tony Hunt rejected all of Mr Lagan’s grounds.

He found previous decisions not to prosecute Mr Lagan were “superseded” by the fresh investigation carried out by the PSNI and the emergence of the telephone data.

He rejected the argument that Mr Lagan’s rights were breached in respect of the telephone data and said there was no evidence that the retention, disclosure or examination of the data was inappropriate, unnecessary or disproportionate.

However, he did say it “remains unclear” as to why the telephone evidence relied upon now was not analysed before 2015.