Suspect in soldiers’ killings in Northern Ireland in 1972 refused bail | UK news

A man accused of murdering two British soldiers in 1972 has been remanded in custody after appearing at Omagh magistrates court.

John Downey, now 67, handed himself in to police on Friday after losing an appeal to challenge his extradition to the UK from the Republic of Ireland.

A large crowd – including several Sinn Fein MPs – gathered outside the court on Saturday. Dressed in a white shirt and blue jumper, Downey appeared in the dock flanked by a police officer, while his family sat in court and gestured to him. He was refused bail after the judge ruled he could be a flight risk and ordered he be remanded in custody. “The charge couldn’t be more grave,” he said.

Judge Michael Ranaghan said he envisaged a “long and protracted” legal process ahead, but also told Downey he could appeal to the high court against the decision to refuse him bail. Downey was ordered to appear again in court on 25 October.

He is accused of killing L/Cpl Alfred Johnston, a father of four, and Pte James Eames, a father of three. The soldiers died when a device exploded in a car they were checking in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in August 1972.

Downey is also accused of aiding and abetting an explosion.

In 2013, Downey was charged with murdering four Royal Household Cavalrymen in a bomb attack in Hyde Park in 1982. His trial at the Old Bailey collapsed after it was revealed he had received a written assurance from former prime minister Tony Blair’s government that he was not actively wanted by the authorities.

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