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Teenager who phoned bomb warning to priest was traced after buying top-up voucher

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 10/08/2016

A teenager who admitted purchasing a mobile phone and top-up vouchers linked to the discovery of a bomb in Ardoyne is to be sentenced next week
A teenager who admitted purchasing a mobile phone and top-up vouchers linked to the discovery of a bomb in Ardoyne is to be sentenced next week

A teenager who admitted purchasing a mobile phone and top-up vouchers linked to the discovery of a bomb in Ardoyne is to be sentenced next week.

Conal Corbett, from Oisin House in Victoria Parade, Belfast, admitted four terror offences.

The 19-year-old was arrested at his then Flax Street flat in May 2015 following a police investigation into a bomb hidden in advertising hoarding in nearby Brompton Park, north Belfast.

Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that while Corbett was linked to the incident through a mobile phone and top-up vouchers used in connection with the bomb plot, there was no evidence to suggest he was involved in either the preparation or placing of the device.

The court heard that just after midnight on May 1, 2015, Father Gary Donegan from Holy Cross Church received a phone call warning that a device had been left behind an advertising hoarding at Sean Graham's bookmakers, Brompton Park.

The priest alerted the PSNI, and officers arrived a short time later and searched the area.

The following morning, another local priest was contacted and informed that urgent action needed to be taken as a device had been left at Brompton Park.

The area was searched again and a remote-controlled device, which had been disguised to look like part of the hoarding, was located and removed.

The prosecutor said that a group calling itself the New IRA later claimed responsibility.

When efforts were made to try and trace the phone used to call Fr Donegan, it emerged that it was made using an O2 pay-as-you-go mobile which had been topped up using vouchers bought in Belfast.

The investigation also revealed that other mobile phones were linked to the one used to call Fr Donegan, and police discovered that a top-up card used for one of the handsets had been bought in the Eurospar in Ardoyne.

Security camera footage from the store was seized and examined, leading police to search Corbett's flat.

The court heard that Corbett was also linked by CCTV footage to the purchase of a phone and top-up card in CastleCourt.

Corbett was arrested on May 7 at his flat at Flax Street, where officers located items which the Crown say showed sympathies with the republican cause. They included a handkerchief of Padraig Pearse which had been signed by prisoners from the dissident wing in Maghaberry jail. Other items included a crossbow, black balaclava and political poems written by Corbett.

A piece of paper was also found in a doorbell box, containing instructions on how to assemble an AK47 assault rifle, and Corbett's laptop contained an AK47 manual. The prosecution said it was accepted that this 95-page document was "readily available on the internet."

Corbett was interviewed on 12 separate occasions, and during each interview he made no reply to any question asked.

He subsequently pleaded guilty to four offences - two counts of possessing items for terrorist-related offences, namely the mobile phone and two top-up vouchers; collecting or making records of information for terrorism, and also possessing documents useful for terrorism.

Corbett was released on bail until next Monday, when he will be sentenced.

Belfast Telegraph

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