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'Dangerous woman' jailed after posing as Swedish model in bid to murder officer

A lone-wolf dissident bomber who posed as a Swedish model to entrap men into taking part in her terrorist campaign has been branded "dangerous and cunning" by police.

Christine Connor, 31, was jailed for 16 years and four months at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to a number of terrorist offences, including the attempted murder of a police officer in the city.

Connor twice attacked officers with blast bombs in May 2013 after tricking them into responding to fake 999 calls in North Belfast. Nobody was seriously injured.

In one of the calls, she pretended to be a victim of domestic violence. When officers responded, she threw two blast bombs at them. One of the bombs landed at an officer's feet.

Connor, from Mill Valley in North Belfast, had enlisted the help of an English man she had befriended online - using a false identity and photographs - to source and purchase explosives and ship them to her.

Police in Northern Ireland said the region was a safer place with Connor behind bars.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Serious Crime Branch, described Connor as "a dangerous woman who exploited others to further her own twisted ideologies".

"She was very cunning and duped a number of men through fake profile images on social media to become involved in her terrorist aspirations. She used online photographs of Swedish model, fashion designer and blogger Sanne Alexandra Andersson without her knowledge or consent. These bore no resemblance to Christine."

Co-accused, Stuart Downes, 31, from Meole Brace in Shrewsbury, had been befriended by Connor online.

Police believe he played a key part in the attacks on officers by sourcing and purchasing the explosives and then shipping them to Connor in Northern Ireland.

Mr Downes took his own life before he was due to stand trial in June last year.

Sentencing, Judge David McFarland described Mr Downes as a "pitiful, troubled and vulnerable young man".

"Why he became involved with you is a mystery," he said to Connor.

"You attempted to indoctrinate Mr Downes with your views of Irish history.

"It's within your power to manipulate others. You are committed to a violent philosophy to achieve political objectives. You have shown little remorse.

"I find you dangerous."

Police revealed that Connor had also enticed an American man, Zachary Gevelinger, online.

Mr Gevelinger was arrested and questioned by officers after he visited Connor while she was on remand in Hydebank Prison in July 2013.

Police found correspondence from him to Connor in her house, as well as cheques he had sent her.

Mr Gevelinger took his own life in May this year.

"Neither of these men, who are now both deceased, had previous connections to Northern Ireland or to Northern Ireland-related terrorism," said Detective Superintendent Campbell.

"Her deceitfulness knew no bounds and involved using a fictitious name and a profile picture that bore no resemblance to her when communicating online with Stuart Downes to plan this sickening attack on officers who were simply carrying out their core job of protecting their community."

Earlier, a prosecution barrister told the court that Connor had been motivated by terrorism.

"(Connor) was clearly committed to violent use of these weapons with the primary purpose of killing police officers ," he said.

"The case against her was overwhelming. She was caught red-handed by the evidence."

A defence lawyer said that Connor, who has a number of health problems, was going to find life in prison "particularly difficult" and asked the court to "extend leniency".

She was sentenced to 16 years and four months in prison for a number of terror offences, including the attempted murder of a police officer.

Upon her release, she will spend another three years and eight months on licence.

She will be entitled to apply to the Parole Board for an earlier release.

Connor, who gasped when the judge passed his sentence, waved at her family in the public gallery as she was taken from the courtroom by prison guards.

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