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Bomb concealed in an advertising board, court is told

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/07/2015

A sophisticated bomb allegedly targeting police in north Belfast had been hidden in advertising hoarding, the High Court heard
A sophisticated bomb allegedly targeting police in north Belfast had been hidden in advertising hoarding, the High Court heard

A sophisticated bomb allegedly targeting police in north Belfast had been hidden in advertising hoarding, the High Court heard.

Failed attempts were made to detonate the radio-controlled explosives before two priests were warned about the device secretly planted in the Ardoyne area, prosecutors said.

Details emerged as bail was denied to a teenager charged with offences connected to the discovery made on May 1.

Eighteen-year-old Conal Corbett, of Flax Street in the city, is accused of two counts of possessing articles for terrorist-related purposes - namely a mobile phone and top-up vouchers purchased days earlier.

He is further charged with having a document or record likely to be of use in terrorism - handwritten instructions on operating an assault rifle allegedly found inside a doorbell ringer at his flat.

Corbett was arrested as part of the investigation into the bomb discovered at the junction of the Crumlin Road and Brompton Park.

At the time a PSNI commander claimed the device had been intended to kill or injure officers.

Setting out the circumstances in court yesterday, prosecution counsel said it was located close to where police attend continuing daily protests over a banned Orange Order parade. "There's a bookmakers which has a number of advertisements outside the building," he told the court.

"An additional metal frame had been disguised to look like the original and placed along the bottom of the advertisement.

"It contained a sophisticated radio-controlled device."

The barrister added: "It appears there were failed attempts to explode that device and then subsequently contact was made with two priests to assist in the location of the device."

Fr Gary Donegan was phoned first and alerted to the device at a minute past midnight on May 1, the court heard.

But because of how the bomb had been hidden there were still problems in locating it.

Then, shortly after 8am that day, a second priest was contacted in person and given the exact location.

According to the prosecution a closed network of approximately five phones were involved in the bomb plot. Corbett is alleged to have purchased a mobile and top-up vouchers suspected of being used for contact with the so-called bomb warning phone.

Lord Justice Gillen was told the rifle instructions were found during searches at the defendant's home on May 7.

A black balaclava, crossbow and arrows were said to have been seized from a desk drawer in the property.

Police also located a handkerchief signed by "a number of significant dissident republican prisoners", the prosecutor disclosed.

Opposing bail, he said Corbett had requested a transfer in custody from the young offenders' centre to the separated Roe House wing at HMP Maghaberry - a unit housing some describing themselves as aligned to "the New IRA".

The lawyer argued there was prima facie evidence of "a motivated commitment to assisting those involved in terrorism".

He added: "This is in the context of a sophisticated device located in a busy area where police were known to be on a daily basis."

Lord Justice Gillen held there was strong prima facie evidence.

The judge said: "My duty is to ensure that the public is adequately protected... and I would be failing in my duty if I granted him bail."

Belfast Telegraph

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