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No ruling on man who 'found Semtex in graveyard'

By Ashleigh McDonald

A Crown Court judge presiding over the non-jury Diplock trial of a west Belfast man accused of possessing Semtex, guns and bullets has reserved judgment in the case.

Kevin Nolan was arrested at his partner's address in Sunderland in September 2015 after 651 grams of the explosive was found in his parents' Ballymurphy home. The trial against the 47-year-old, from Stewartstown Road, was opened last month and resumed yesterday.

Whilst Nolan's legal team told the Judge the case against their client was "characterised by an absence of evidence", a Crown barrister said Nolan's version of events was a "total fabrication".

During the trial, Belfast Crown Court heard that the Semtex was discovered along with two guns, detonators and assorted ammunition during a police search which took place on September 17, 2015. Amongst the items was a holdall containing a Baikal gas pistol and a revolver, over 300 bullets and suspected Semtex, which was wrapped in cling film.

Crown prosecutor Michael Chambers said that when the items underwent forensic testing, Nolan's DNA was located on the inside of the balaclava as well as on the grip of the Baikal pistol. He was arrested in the south of England three days later.

Whilst Nolan chose not to give evidence at the trial, the court heard his version of events via a pre-prepared statement which was read to police during interviews conducted when the accused was brought back from Sunderland to Northern Ireland.

Nolan claimed that he saw the bag being abandoned in a cemetery, he took it, and that when he opened it in the bedroom, he was "shocked" to discover the guns and bullets, adding he thought the Semtex was in fact cannabis resin - or, as he called it, "a whack of dope". He then hid the items, adding he panicked and was in fear for his life.

Following submissions from the Crown, defence barrister Eilis MacDermott said the case against Nolan relied on admissible evidence.

She also spoke of a lack of evidence, saying there was no criminal record, an absence of admission and an absence of any evidence that suggests Nolan was a member of or supported any organisation that used violence, firearms or explosives.

Following both submissions, Judge Patricia Smyth said she was reserving judgment. The Judge also released Nolan on continuing bail.

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