Belfast Telegraph

Lennon trial murder charges dropped

Two men accused of sending suspicious packages to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other high profile supporters of the football club are no longer facing a charge of conspiring to murder them.

Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie were previously alleged to have conspired to murder and assault Mr Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late Paul McBride QC, as well as various people at the premises of Cairde Na hEireann, by posting devices they believed were capable of exploding or igniting.

They now stand charged with plotting to assault the various individuals, charges which they both deny.

At the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday, trial judge Lord Turnbull told the jury: "The evidence led in this case, no matter what you decide to make of it, would never be sufficient in law to entitle you to conclude a conspiracy to murder has taken place."

Muirhead, 44, from Kilwinning, and McKenzie, 42, from Saltcoats, both Ayrshire, face a further charge, which they also deny, of dispatching an item by post to Mr Lennon at Celtic Park with the intention of making him believe it was likely to explode or ignite and cause injury or damage to property.

Gordon Jackson QC, representing Muirhead, and Donald Findlay, McKenzie's defence QC, made their closing speeches to the jury on Thursday.

Mr Findlay said it was "preposterous" to think anyone could have believed the devices were explosive and that they could have detonated, causing the level of damage alleged by the Crown and claimed they were merely "a message".

He gave a theatrical demonstration to the jury, putting together parts of a "device" he hypothetically intended to send to advocate depute Tim Niven-Smith. It had no detonator, like all five packages allegedly sent by his client and Muirhead. The court heard previously that none of the devices were viable.

Mr Findlay said: "You of course know that what I've created is not a bomb. It will never become a bomb just because I say it is. Such a suggestion would be preposterous. Something to scare, something to frighten, oh yes, but you would never believe such a thing could be thought by anyone to be a bomb."

The trial continues on Friday, when Lord Turnbull is expected to send the jury out to consider their verdicts.

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