Lyra McKee was shot dead while observing riots in Derry. (PH)
A man has been sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing the gun police believe was used to kill journalist Lyra McKee.
Niall Sheerin, 29, from Derry, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to possession of the pistol between 11 September 2018 and 6 June 2020, reports PA.
Sheerin was handed a seven year prison sentence in Belfast on Wednesday (14 September) by Mr Justice Fowler, with an additional five years on licence.
Fowler told the court he believed Sheerin to be part of a “serious terrorist gang who posed a danger to the public”.
The judge said he was not sentencing Sheerin in connection with the murder of McKee because the “prosecution cannot establish to the requisite standard” that he was aware of the gun’s history.
‘Ensure there is justice for Lyra McKee’
Nichola McKee-Corner, sister of Lyra McKee, said outside the court the “story of the gun” had come to an end, but the search for her sister’s killer continues.
“We would again appeal to anyone who has information on the identity of the gunman to come forward and ensure there is justice for Lyra,” McKee-Corner said.
Lyra McKee, a queer journalist who had written extensively about the Troubles in Northern Ireland and her own sexuality, was shot dead on 18 April 2019 while observing rioting in the Creggan area of Derry.
The gun that was used to kill McKee was later discovered wrapped in plastic bags behind a telegraph pole in the Ballymagroarty area of the city.
Ballistics testing found the gun had been used in five shootings over the previous two years. One of those was McKee’s death.
The New IRA later claimed responsibility for McKee’s murder.
Sheerin’s DNA was found on the gun, but his defence barrister said at an earlier hearing he had no knowledge of how the weapon was used before he stored it for a “short period of time”.
Prosecutors had argued Sheerin was aware he was storing the gun on behalf of the New IRA.
The added, however, they could not establish if Sheerin was aware of the gun’s history when it came into his possession.
Numerous people have been arrested in connection with McKee’s murder but nobody has yet been prosecuted for the killing.