Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

The American zumba dance instructor and romantic novelist who's accused of hiding explosives in her Derry home for use in terror attack on Merseyside police HQ

Lesley and Barry Concannon
Lesley and Barry Concannon

A zumba dance teacher and romantic novelist from the United States accused of possessing a copy of the Anarchist's Cookbook has been ordered by a judge to write a diary instead.

Mother-of-one Lesley Concannon is accused of keeping PETN high explosives in her coal bunker, and having articles for use in terrorism.

The 32-year-old from West Virginia was arrested and charged along with her 39-year-old husband Kevin Barry Concannon following police raids on their home at Beechwood Avenue, Derry last week.

Photographs – recovered from the couple's home during an investigation into suspected dissident republican terrorism – appeared to show the targeting of Merseyside Police Headquarters, the High Court heard yesterday.

Police also seized a deactivated sub-machine gun, explosives and the so-called Anarchist's Cookbook, which contains instructions on how to make bombs.

Searches were carried out as part of ongoing investigations into the discovery of four mortar bombs in March.

Concannon's mother and brother, who flew in from West Virginia for the hearing, were accompanied at yesterday's bail hearing by a representative from the US Consulate.

During a previous hearing, solicitor Joe McElhinney revealed that Concannon first came to Northern Ireland on holiday with her father three years ago. During her visit to the country she met her future husband.

Mr McElhinney said his client "had a romantic novel published based on her relationship with her husband".

Opposing Lesley Concannon's bail application, a prosecution lawyer said police believe the couple are linked to dissident republican activity.

A laptop computer taken from the home led to the discovery of photos taken earlier this year which appeared to depict a show of strength involving three masked men holding weapons and a gun.

It was claimed that another 22 photos appeared to show the targeting of Merseyside Police HQ.

The judge was told Mr Concannon admitted taking the pictures while in Liverpool with his wife last year, claiming he did so due to an interest in the building's size.

An illegal document known as the Anarchist's Cookbook was also recovered from the computer, according to the prosecution.

It provided detailed instructions on how to make explosives, bombs and sets out the ingredients required.

More than 30,000 search entries were identified on the laptop, the court heard.

Requests included 'Can I take gun magazine airplane' and 'Legal to import gun airplane UK'.

The PETN explosives were found in a coal bunker at the rear of the house.

Two days later police returned to the rented property and found a deactivated sub-machine gun.

A set of new number plates and a coffee grinder box containing magnesium ribbon aluminium filings were located in a spare room.

Documentation of alleged intelligence gathering on suspected drug dealers was discovered hidden in the sleeve of a child's DVD case, the court heard.

Battery springs and tubing similar to that used in explosive projectiles was also seized.

Concannon denied any knowledge of the explosives or machine gun, or of having carried out the computer research.

She told police someone must have climbed over the wall and put the munitions in the coal bunker.

Her barrister, Ivor McAteer, rejected prosecution claims that she may flee if released, pointing out that she had returned to her home after police first searched it.

He told the court his client works as a zumba dance instructor, taking classes five days a week while her husband looks after their daughter.

Having obtained a degree in marketing at university in West Virginia, she moved to Northern Ireland and got married in 2011.

Stressing her client's clear criminal record, the lawyer said: "She knows nothing, nothing about this activity."

Mr Justice Stephens granted bail with a £25,000 cash surety. Passports for the accused and her daughter must be surrendered.

He banned Concannon from leaving Northern Ireland and she must report to police daily.

Concannon was also prohibited from using any computers or mobile phone.

The judge added: "She is to keep a diary of her daily activities and any contacts she has, including dates and names, and make that diary available for inspection by police if required to do so."

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