Photograph of John Knocker

Following an appeal by 57 year old Francis Lanigan against his conviction and sentencing for the murder of John Knocker which occurred on 31 May 1998, today, Tuesday 31st August 2021, at the Royal Courts of Justice, Belfast the Court of Appeal upheld his original conviction and sentencing. He was previously sentenced to a minimum term of 20 years imprisonment.

Detective Superintendent Gareth Talbot said: “John’s family and friends were able to observe today’s proceedings remotely and I would like to say that my thoughts and those of the investigation team are very much with them at what has been an extremely difficult time.

“John was murdered following an altercation with Francis Lanigan in the carpark of Glengannon hotel in Dungannon. Following this altercation, as John was fleeing along Eglish Road, Francis Lanigan raised a gun and callously shot him from a distance. He fell to the ground wounded and as he lay helpless and vulnerable on the ground Francis Lanigan walked up to him and coldly shot him a second time in the head, killing him.”

Detective Superintendent Talbot continues: “John was a young man of 22 when his life was ruthlessly cut short. He had a young son and was awaiting the birth of his second child.

“John and his son were denied the joy of building memories together. He never got to see the birth of his daughter and she will never have the joy of her father walking her down the aisle. Francis Lanigan’s actions have taken so much from his children and his family.

“Although this callous and brutal murder occurred 23 years ago and Francis Lanigan fled the jurisdiction to the Republic of Ireland, officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland worked tirelessly to bring him back to Northern Ireland to face justice for what he had done.

“He believed he could evade justice – he was wrong.”

Detective Superintendent Talbot concludes: “I would like to place on record my thanks to the family and friends of John Knocker who have supported the police investigation down through the years.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the investigation team for their efforts and painstaking work which enabled us to bring Francis Lanigan before the courts.

“Today’s judgment won’t bring John back to his family, however I hope it will bring some small degree of comfort to them knowing that Francis Lanigan is in prison, paying the price for taking the life of their father, son and brother.”

Statement issued on behalf of Mary Knocker, mother of John Knocker

Today, Francis Lanigan’s conviction and sentence for the brutal and senseless murder of my beloved son, John was upheld by the Court of Appeal. However, no matter how many years he has to serve in prison it will not make up for the life and memories that both John and all of his family have missed out on and will continue to miss.

John was my first born and my only son. He was the light of my life. His murder rocked our family to the core and left a huge void in our lives which will remain for as long as we all live.

His younger sisters and I have had to live with the heartache of never being able to feel his arms hugging us or hearing his laughter. Family gatherings and holidays have never been the same without him. All of our memories are missing one vital person – John.

John had a young son whom he adored. He was looking forward to the birth of his second child. He had his whole life ahead of him. However, Francis Lanigan robbed both him and his children of the chance to make beautiful and life changing memories.

John never got to meet his daughter as his life was cruelly cut short before she was born. He never had the chance to look into her eyes or hear her voice and she never got to meet her father

We have all been denied so much by the cruel and senseless act of one person.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the police, our legal team and not least of all my family and friends, whose help and support we all truly appreciate.