Bail refused in mortar plot case
on 06/03/2013 12:44:27
Gary McDaid, 37, from Glenowen Park, and Seamus McLaughlin, 35, from Eastway Gardens, both in Derry, appeared at the city's Magistrates' Court this morning charged with three offences relating to the discovery of four primed mortars on Sunday night.
The pair were both charged with conspiring to cause an explosion, possession of explosives, namely four mortars and a pipe bomb likely to endanger life. They were also charged with possessing an article likely to be of use to terrorists, namely a Citroen Berlingo van.
District Judge Barney McElholm said: "There is no doubt that McLaughlin was driving the vehicle with the mortars in it. It is clear that his purpose was nefarious insofar as he had gloves on and forensic covers over his shoes. High-vis trousers under his jeans is a particularly striking feature.
"That ties in the second individual - that and the helmet and police observations.
"There is a very, very strong circumstantial case that both were involved in something extremely serious.
"The fear of further offences is a very real one. People who are committed to these sorts of mindless, pointless terrorism which is going to achieve absolutely nothing are hell-bent on pursuing that activity. They cause needless suffering to families.
"People who are that way inclined are not likely to give up their activities.
"On those grounds bail is refused. Both are remanded in custody."
Further details of exactly what police found inside the white Citroen Berlingo van were also revealed to the court.
The four mortar bombs contained a substantial quantity of explosives, were placed inside launch tubes and secured to a frame ready for imminent deployment.
A blast incendiary device was attached to a petrol container which police believe would have been used to destroy any forensic evidence within the vehicle once the mortars were fired.
A hole was cut in the roof but was partially covered, two timer devices were placed inside a plastic lunchbox and there were two toggle switches marked A and B. There were also timer power units and batteries. A mobile phone, which police described as a dissident republican "operational phone" was seized from the dashboard of the vehicle.
The court was told that McLaughlin, who was driving the van, was wearing rubber gloves and forensic shoe covers when he was arrested. He also had several layers of clothing including high-visibility trousers underneath his jeans.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Constable Funston said both men had been subjected to extensive interviews at Antrim Serious Crime Suite. She revealed McLaughlin had refused to speak.
McDaid, who was riding a Honda motorcycle which was also stopped close to the Citroen van, was carrying an extra helmet and driving erratically with the lights off. He told police he had been on his way to get petrol but had no money in his possession.
McDaid also claimed the second helmet was for his drug dealer whom he was planning to take to a stash.
Objecting to bail Detective Constable Funston said police believed the men, who had no relevant criminal records, were prominent dissident republicans.
She said: "Police believe that the circumstances that resulted in the stop and arrest of both applicants clearly indicate that they are active and prominent members of dissident republican groupings.
"Police have serious concerns that if released on bail they would re-engage with other dissident republicans in order to continue on with their murderous and cowardly campaign targeting police, prison officers and security forces.
"Given the serious nature of the offences, police have serious concerns they would not answer bail or appear for their potential trial."
Defence solicitor Dermot Walker, who represented McDaid appealed for bail to be granted because there was no forensic evidence linking his client to the alleged offences.
He also said his client, who is aged 37 still lives with his mother and had strong links to Derry.
Mr Walker said: "He has lived in Derry all his life. He has no ties outside the jurisdiction. That would negate against any flight risk."
Paddy McDermott, solicitor for McLaughlin, told the court his client lived with his partner and young child and requested bail because of the considerable time before any trial comes before the court.
"He will comply with any conditions," he said.
Both defendants who were flanked by two prison guards waved and smiled at supporters who had packed the public gallery in courtroom number two.
Both men who were wearing jeans and T-shirts nodded to confirm they understood the charges against them.
There was a heavy police presence both inside and outside the courthouse.
District Judge McElholm said: "Despite the ties the border is a short distance away and given that these men face an extremely lengthy custodial sentence if they are convicted in due course there is a risk of flight."
The judge said fresh applications for bail could be submitted at a later date.
The case is due to be heard again on March 28.