Belfast Telegraph

Colin Duffy charged with conspiring to kill police

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Republican Colin Duffy (46) has been charged with conspiracy to murder and IRA membership.

Two other men were separately charged in connection with a murder bid on a police patrol in north Belfast, when shots were fired at officers at a sectarian interface earlier this month.

A convoy of police vehicles was fired on from Ardoyne as it travelled up the Crumlin Road on December 5.

The attack took place close to a loyalist protest camp in the Woodvale area.

All three men appeared together in the dock at Belfast's Laganside Magistrates Court yesterday.

Duffy (right), from Forest Glade, Lurgan, Co Armagh, was also charged with conspiring with the other defendants, Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimons, to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage to property since the start of this year.

Only one of four charges – alleged membership of the IRA – was read aloud in court.

McCrory (52), from Sliabh Dubh View in Belfast, faces six charges.

They include the attempted murder of police in the north Belfast attack, possessing firearms with intent to endanger life or cause serious damage, conspiracy to murder members of the security forces, conspiring to possess explosives and firearms, and being a member of the IRA.

Fitzsimons (45), of no fixed address, is charged with attempted murder of police, IRA membership, possession of firearms with intent, conspiring to possess explosives and weapons, and conspiring to murder.

Only the possession of firearms charges against both men were read out in court.

None of the men responded to the charges put to them.

No details regarding the charges were given to the court and no submissions were made by defence lawyers.

The three men were remanded into custody to reappear before the same court by video-link next month.

Meanwhile, two people were arrested after supporters clashed with police outside the courthouse.

A 32-year-old man was later charged with disorderly behaviour, assault on police and resisting police.

A-33-year-old man was charged with disorderly behaviour and assault on police.

Mammoth security operation as unfazed 'star' of the show sits it out with his co-accused

In a packed courtroom, surrounded by dozens of armed police and prison officers, all eyes were on one man. But leading republican Colin Duffy looked totally unfazed. If anything, the Lurgan man seemed bored.

The heavy beard had gone and he appeared to have gained weight since the most recent pictures of the prominent republican were published, but he was instantly recognisable.

Getting him to the court was a mammoth security operation in itself.

An armoured prison van, which transported him and his two co-defendants, was escorted to Belfast by four police Land Rovers, each carrying heavily-armed officers. A huge police presence awaited his arrival at Laganside Magistrates Court.

Bullet-proof jacket-wearing officers formed a line across the front of the building, backed up by officers on motorcycles nearby and others in yet more Land Rovers sat at points surrounding the court.

In courtroom 10, more than 40 supporters of Duffy packed the public gallery from early morning. Sitting just feet in front of them were suited senior officers from the PSNI.

Security guards and police kept a close watch on the supporters, occasionally ordering them to turn off mobile phones and refrain from talking among themselves.

At around 11.30am Judge Fiona Bagnall instructed guards to bring Duffy and the other two men into the dock.

The atmosphere in the court instantly felt more tense.

If Duffy was feeling any nerves, he certainly wasn't showing them. He was the last of the three to come through a door into the dock.

Dressed in an open-necked grey top and unshaven, Duffy's demeanour was completely relaxed.

He smiled at the public gallery, exchanging waves and thumbs-up gestures with some.

Not once during yesterday's proceedings did any of the men look in the direction of the judge.

They ignored a request to stand when addressed by Ms Bagnall. Instead, they sat slightly slouched.

Duffy looked straight ahead, his expression blank while the charges were read to the court.

Throughout the hearing his gaze remained forward.

His defence lawyer made no submission for bail, meaning he is set to spend Christmas behind bars at the high-security Maghaberry Prison.

As Ms Bagnall adjourned proceedings until January 14, Duffy's supporters erupted into rapturous applause and cheering.

He smiled widely as he rose to his feet, again giving the thumbs-up gesture to the public gallery as he was escorted from the dock.

Ms Bagnall immediately ordered the clearing of the public gallery.

As she did so, two senior officers exchanged glances and shook their heads.

Three men, each charged with conspiring to murder, headed to prison with rapturous applause ringing in their ears.

Despite Duffy's calm in the court, it was more heated outside as two arrests were made with charges following.

Belfast Telegraph

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