Bail refused in mortar plot case
Two suspected dissident republicans charged in connection with a mortar bomb find were refused bail today after a judge said they posed a serious risk to society.
Gary McDaid, 37, from Glenowen Park, and Seamus McLaughlin, 35, from Eastway Gardens, both in Londonderry, 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."