Test drive officer didn’t know car seller was dissident suspect
PSNI bosses have issued a warning after an officer unwittingly tried to buy a car from a dissident republican terror suspect.
The officer put his life at serious risk when he shared his personal details with the car's owner during the sale of the vehicle, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.
And he blew his identity as a PSNI officer when he showed his police warrant card at a vehicle checkpoint while test driving the car with the terror suspect.
Following the incident a force-wide warning was issued reminding all officers to be security conscious.
An email warned them not to produce their warrant card in front of anyone they don't know.
"He was test driving a car with the car's owner when they were stopped at a VCP (vehicle check point)," a police source said.
"The officer produced his warrant card. It later transpired that the car's owner was a dissident republican suspect.
"It could have been a very costly mistake."
PSNI Inspector Mark Hamilton said safety advice is routinely given to officers and staff.
"Police officers and staff are routinely given advice regarding their personal security and any identified potential risks.
"This is nothing new. It is a continuous and ongoing necessity in the face of the current severe threat from dissident republican terrorists," he said.
Last month police bosses admitted they were "deeply concerned" by the current threat from dissident republicans.
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said there were dissident republican groupings who wanted to mark the Easter Rising anniversary in an "entirely sinister way".
He added that the groups want to "kill police officers, prison officers or soldiers".
And Assistant Chief Constable Will Kerr said they were concerned by the numbers involved in dissident organisations and their increasing capabilities.
Mr Kerr said the police are preventing or disrupting three or four planned or attempted attacks for every one that takes place.
He said there are "several hundred active dissident republicans" who are led by a small group of people with "significant terrorist experience". Those individuals were previously members of the Provisional IRA.
His warnings came following the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay. Mr Ismay was seriously injured when a bomb exploded under his van at Hillsborough Drive, off the Woodstock Road on March 4.
The father of three died 11 days later. Police said a post-mortem examination showed he died as a "direct result of the injuries" of the bomb. The dissident republican group widely referred to as the 'New IRA' said it carried out the attack.
A 45-year-old man, Christopher Alphonsos Robinson, of Aspen Park in Dunmurry, has been charged with Mr Ismay's murder.
In November police officers had a lucky escape following a gun attack on their patrol car in west Belfast. A number of shots struck the passenger side of the police car that was parked at Rossnareen Avenue.
In June a bomb was found under a police officer's car in Eglinton, near Londonderry.