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Man is jailed for five years over bomb timer found in his wardrobe

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 11/06/2016

Sentenced: Keith McConnan
Sentenced: Keith McConnan

A 21-year-old man who was caught with a Timer Power Unit in his rented border bungalow has been handed a five-year sentence for the terrorist offence.

Keith McConnan, originally from Dundalk, was told by Judge Sandra Crawford he will spend half the sentence in custody, with the remainder on supervised licence upon his release.

Because of time he has already served on remand in Hydebank YOC, McConnan is due to be released within the week.

McConnan was arrested with his girlfriend Orla O'Hanlon in December 2013 after their rented bungalow on the Tievecrom Road in Forkhill was searched by officers acting under the Justice and Security Act.

During their search, officers located a number of items including an industrial grinder, a complete Timer Power Unit and a quantity of crushed ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

Both Ms O'Hanlon and McConnan were arrested and subsequently charged with a number of terrorist-related offences and the couple stood trial late last year at Belfast Crown Court.

Last month Judge Sandra Crawford, who presided over the non-jury trial, presented her judgment on the case.

She acquitted Ms O'Hanlon on all 10 charges she faced, while McConnan - who originally faced nine charges - was found guilty of two offences and cleared of the others. During the course of the trial, it emerged that during the search of the bungalow, officers located a plastic bag in a wardrobe in the couple's bedroom. The bag contained items including an improvised mobile phone-operated switch unit and portable power supply as well as a reloaded cartridge.

McConnan was found guilty of possessing the TPU and the cartridge in suspicious circumstances.

Passing sentence on those offences yesterday, Judge Crawford said that while McConnan didn't face any charges linked to membership of an unlawful organisation, the offences "clearly" included a "terrorist element".

She described TPUs as potentially lethal weapons that have "no innocent purpose".

During the trial, it emerged that McConnan was both friends and involved in business with a man he refused to name who he called Mr X - who was later named in court as Co Louth dissident Oliver Traynor.

Commenting that the people of Northern Ireland have "resolved to put violent terrorism behind them", the judge warned that anyone participating in, facilitating or supporting such acts of terror will be punished by the courts.

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