Belfast Telegraph

I thought Semtex was drugs, weapons haul accused told police

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man on trial for offences including possessing Semtex told police he thought the wrapped-up explosive substance was cannabis, a court has heard.

Keith Nolan, from Belfast, was arrested in Sunderland in September 2015 after 651 grams of Semtex was discovered with two guns, detonators and ammunition in his parents' Ballymurphy home.

At a previous hearing, the 47-year-old Stewartstown Road man pleaded guilty to possessing firearms and ammunition on dates between May 1 and September 18, 2015, in suspicious circumstances. The items included two handguns - a Baikal gas pistol and a revolver - and bullets.

Setting out the Crown case against Nolan, prosecuting barrister Michael Chambers told Judge Patricia Smyth the accused now faces six charges arising from the items located in the house during the planned police search on September 17, 2015.

The charges include possessing 651g of the commercial explosive Semtex and two improvised electric detonators, both with intent to endanger life, and also in suspicious circumstances. He also denies possessing two handguns with intent, as well as possessing articles for use in terrorism, namely a black balaclava,

Mr Chambers revealed the items were found in Nolan's family home on the Ballymurphy Road during a police search in September 2015. Nolan's DNA was found on the balaclava and pistol grip.

He was arrested at his girlfriend's house in Sunderland three days later, where he said: "Yeah, I wanted out of Belfast. I don't want a hole in my head. I was accused of stealing something."

He was brought back to Northern Ireland for questioning. He later made a statement claiming he had seen two men in the City Cemetery leave a plastic bag in a hedge. He said that after they left, he took the bag back to his parents' house. He told police he believed the men were hiding money or drugs and he intended to steal them for his own gain.

Nolan claimed when he opened the bag in the bedroom, he was "shocked" to discover guns and bullets, adding he thought the Semtex was in fact cannabis resin - or, as he called it, "a whack of dope".

He said he hid the items and panicked as he was in fear for his life. He went to his partner's house in Sunderland, but said he was aware dissident republicans in Belfast were looking for items taken from them at a graveyard.

Nolan also expressed fears he would be shot if he came back to Belfast, and said he was contacted by a go-between who said that if he returned and handed the items over, he would not be shot.

The case continues.

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