Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

'Falklands War veteran' detonated explosives in Co Antrim forest 'to clear his head', court told

Belfast High Court
Belfast High Court

A former soldier accused of having explosives containing shrapnel claimed he detonates them in a forest "to clear his head", the High Court heard today.

Police discovered a batch of improvised explosives at John Rankin's Co Antrim home after intercepting blank-firing gas pistols in the post.

The 51-year-old allegedly fought in the Falklands War and has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder since being discharged from the army, prosecutors said.

Rankin, of Edward Road in Whitehead, faces charges of having firearms and explosives in suspicious circumstances.

He is further accused of attempting to have possession of firearms.

Police went to his home in January after three pistols sent in a package had been intercepted in Birmingham.

A bag discovered in an outside shed contained a number of devices. One of them had shrapnel attached to it, the court heard.

Rankin claimed they were fireworks he detonated at woods near Larne.

He told police the pistols had been purchased from a Spanish website.

Opposing his application for bail, a prosecution barrister said: "He indicated he went into a forest in the direction of Larne where he would let off these devices.

"He said he did it for something to do and to clear his head."

Defence counsel Denis Boyd insisted the guns were not capable of being fired, adding that Rankin has a history of collecting ornamental weapons and swords.

According to his submissions the accused was discharged from the Royal Irish Regiment after an exemplary 15 years service.

Since then he has taken charge of firework displays in the Whitehead area, the court heard.

Dealing with the home-made device with shrapnel, Mr Boyd added: "He (Rankin) said there's nothing sinister about that, he just wanted to see how it ignited.

"He never had any intention to hurt or harm anyone."

After studying a medical report Mr Justice O'Hara decided to grant bail.

He banned Rankin from having any fireworks, accessing the internet or going into the forest where the alleged detonations were carried out.

The judge added: "He must know he's going to be monitored pretty closely to make sure this unusual risk has gone away."

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