R v Francis Lanigan

JurisdictionNorthern Ireland
Neutral Citation[2020] NICC 8
Date11 May 2020
CourtCrown Court (Northern Ireland)
Neutral Citation No: [2020] NICC 8
Judgment: approved by the Court for handing down
(subject to editorial corrections)*
Ref: HOR11249
Delivered: 11/05/2020
[1] On 31 May 1998 at around 2am John Stephen Knocker (“JSK”) aged 22 years
was shot dead at the Glengannon Court Hotel, Dungannon, Co Tyrone (“the hotel”),
with a 9mm Browning pistol. Just moments before his death JSK had given
Francis Lanigan aka “Frankie” or “Studs” Lanigan a severe beating. The fight was
captured in full by CCTV cameras in the car park of the hotel. This brutal murder
was carried out in a most brazen fashion as patrons left the disco, also described as a
rave by some witnesses, at the EXIT 15 nightclub attached to the hotel. JSK was shot
twice in the head, once on the back of the head and the other on the left hand side of
the head. The shot to the left hand side had been fired at point blank range,
probably within a range of 4 inches according to Professor Crane who carried out the
autopsy. JSK’s death would have been fairly rapid. The murderer appears to have
revelled in the attention of the onlookers as he slowly swaggered to the Cavalier car
in which he made good his escape, brandishing the weapon that he had used to take
another man’s life. By any standards this was an appalling act of barbarous
[2] Francis Lanigan of 61 Phibblestown, Clonee, Co Meath, Republic of Ireland, is
charged with the murder described above and also with the possession of a firearm
and ammunition, namely the gun used to carry out the murder and a quantity of
suitable ammunition “with intent by means thereof to endanger life or cause serious
injury to property or to enable some other persons by means therefore to endanger
life or property contrary to Article 17 of the Firearms (NI) Order 1981.” The
defendant has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
[3] The Director of Public Prosecutions has certified pursuant to Section 1 of the
Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 1970 that the trial should be conducted
without a jury. Accordingly, I have heard all the evidence as a judge sitting alone
and it is I, as a judge, rather than a jury who will give the verdict of the court
together with my reasons.
[4] Finally, I should at the outset acknowledge the hard work put in by counsel
and solicitors on both sides. I am indebted to all counsel for the comprehensive and
insightful submissions, both oral and written, which were made. Mr Murphy QC for
the PPS and Mr Lyttle QC for the defence took all possible points for their respective
clients but did not pursue hopeless ones.
[5] The case against the defendant is primarily a circumstantial one. The
prosecution is relying upon the evidence of various circumstances relating to the
crimes and the defendant, which they say when taken together, will lead to the same
conclusion, namely that it was the defendant who shot and killed JSK at the hotel in
the early hours of 31 May 1998.
[6] The three main strands of circumstantial evidence relied upon are:
(i) the evidence of the eye witnesses present at the time of the murder;
(ii) the evidence of Nuala Delaney, a former girlfriend of the defendant and
present in the car park when the murder was committed and in the getaway
car which drove the murderer away from the scene; and
(iii) the DNA evidence.
[7] It is important to remember that there is other evidence upon which the
prosecution seeks to rely, which includes:
(a) the evidence of the bad character of the defendant;
(b) forensic evidence;
(c) the failure of the defendant to give sworn testimony and so submit himself to
cross-examination by counsel for the prosecution; and
(d) the fact that the defendant fled the murder scene to escape arrest by the RUC,
it is claimed, and crossed over the border to the Republic of Ireland, where he
assumed a new identity as Ciaran McCrory until he was apprehended many
years later by An Garda Siochana (“AGS”).
Burden of Proof
[8] It is common case that:
(i) The burden of proof lies upon the prosecution to establish the defendant’s
(ii) As this is a criminal trial, the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt,
namely that the court should be firmly convinced of the defendant’s guilt.
This test has to be applied to each count on the indictment and a separate
verdict must be returned in respect of each count.
(iii) The prosecution must satisfy the court to the relevant standard on the
evidence which is adduced at this trial.
Circumstantial Evidence
[9] The prosecution case depends primarily on circumstantial evidence, namely
that the combination of circumstances establishes an overwhelming case against the
defendant, namely that he was the gunman who shot and killed JSK. It is the task of
the court to look at all the strands of circumstantial evidence relied upon by the
prosecution and decide which, if any, to accept and what, if any, to reject and what
fair and reasonable conclusions the court can draw from any evidence that it accepts.
The court must weigh and examine all of the circumstances as established by the
evidence in deciding whether there is an inference consistent with innocence.
[10] In R v William Courtney [2007] NICA 6 at para [20] the Court of Appeal in
Northern Ireland commenting on the well-known decision of R v Exall [1866] 4 F and
F 922 said:
“Where, as in this case, the prosecution rely on
circumstantial evidence to establish the defendant’s guilt,
it is well established that a particular approach to the
evaluation of the evidence is required. This is perhaps
best encapsulated in the well-known passage from the
judgment of Pollock CB in R v Exall [1866] 176 ER 850 at
853 (endorsed in this jurisdiction by the Court of Appeal
in R v Meehan [No: 2] [1991] 6 NIJB 1):
‘What the jury has to consider in each case is,
what is the fair inference to be drawn from all
the circumstances before them, and whether
they believe the account given by the prisoner
is, under the circumstances, reasonable and

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT