Belfast Telegraph

Serial bomb hoaxer had nothing but Kerrygold butter in his fridge

BY PAUL HIGGINS

AN alcoholic who caused widespread disruption when he made 14 hoax bomb calls over a six-month period has been jailed for 15 months.

Belfast Crown Court heard that although 40-year-old John Mark Shields claimed to be from the Continuity IRA when calling the Samaritans, there was in fact no suggestion of any paramilitary involvement or membership.

The court further heard that each and every time Shields made a hoax call he used the codeword "Kerrygold" and that when police traced the calls back to him, there was nothing in his fridge but Kerrygold butter.

Shields, from Ladybrook Crescent in west Belfast, had pleaded guilty to 14 counts of causing a bomb hoax on various dates between April 22 and November 2, 2009.

Prosecuting lawyer David Russell said all the calls had come from a single mobile phone with the caller claiming to be from the CIRA.

In every incident he told the court, Shields told the Samaritans operator there was a bomb placed or being moved in a certain area and gave "Kerrygold" as a codeword, although it is not a recognised codeword.

The lawyer recounted how all the incidents were centred around west Belfast, often close to Shields' own home and that while the codeword was not recognised, the police had to respond, which then caused serious disruption and stretched PSNI resources.

Defence lawyer Joe Brolly said the various reports compiled on Shields "paint an atrocious picture" of alcoholism, homelessness, subnormal mental functioning, a diagnosis of schizo effective disorder and an "extremely miserable life".

Judge Kinney ordered Shields to spend seven months in jail and the rest of his sentence on licence.

Bomb warnings blamed on dissident republicans also brought chaos to Belfast on numerous occasions during 2009, stretching security forces and causing massive disruption, meaning all alerts had to be treated seriously.

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