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Young couple accused of bomb-making had complete timer unit, court is told

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 15/12/2015

Orla O’Hanlon outside court yesterday
Orla O’Hanlon outside court yesterday

A young couple accused of a string of terrorist offences including making and possessing explosives at their bungalow in south Armagh have gone on trial in Belfast.

Keith McCannon (21) and 20-year-old Orla O'Hanlon were arrested in December 2013 after their Forkhill home was searched by police officers acting under the Justice and Security Act.

The couple are facing charges linked to the discovery in their rented bungalow of an industrial grinder, a "complete" timer power unit (TPU) and a quantity of crushed ammonium nitrate fertiliser, which the crown said has been "encountered in improvised explosive substances" here in the past.

McCannon, from Tievecom Road in Forkhill, and O'Hanlon, from Church Road in the village, both deny the charges levelled against them.

They appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court yesterday for their Diplock non-jury trial.

Outlining the case against McCannon and O'Hanlon, prosecuting counsel Terence Mooney QC said that the evidence in the trial would "undoubtedly point to the fact" that the industrial grinder was to grind the ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

The presence of the grinder, the prosecutor added, was "supported by the discovery" of a ready-to-use timer power unit found on the shelf of a wardrobe in the couple's bedroom. The TPU consisted of an improvised mobile phone-operated switch unit and a portable power supply.

Mr Mooney said that the combination of the items and explosives found on the premises indicated that the occupants of the house - McCannon and O'Hanlon -were "committing acts... for the preparation of manufacturing explosives and making a bomb".

The court was told how the couple were arrested by officers late on the evening of December 17, 2013, after armed police arrived at the bungalow they shared.

When they entered the property, officers told McCannon to get on his knees. He was then handcuffed, after which he was found to be in possession of a mobile phone and latex gloves.

During a subsequent search, police located a 30-inch industrial grinder in one of the bedrooms. Also located was a bin bag in the kitchen containing a "powdery substance" and a latex glove.

When O'Hanlon was asked about the substance, she claimed it was ground flour she had used while baking.

Mr Mooney said that the substance, which was later analysed and found to be crushed ammonium nitrate-based fertiliser, was discovered on the surface of the grinder, as well as in the bin bag in the kitchen, on the bedroom floor and in a vacuum cleaner in the hall of the property.

The prosecutor also revealed that the TPU, which was found in a plastic bag bearing McCannon's fingerprints, consisted of a lunchbox containing a mobile phone, a battery, an on-off toggle and an LED light.

Describing the TPU as "complete", Mr Mooney said that if it was in the hands of a bomber, together with an improvised explosive, it would "in effect have caused immediate detonation - in other words, there would be no delay".

Also found during the search were two modified cartridges - one of which was a shotgun cartridge that had been altered to allow it to be fired from a revolver - and a mobile phone.

Found on the same phone were text messages between the man who sold the industrial grinder and someone called Paul Dunn.

The Crown alleged that McCannon used this false name to purchase the grinder in a bid to disguise the fact that he was the true buyer of the item.

Following their arrests under the Terrorism Act, McCannon and O'Hanlon were interviewed at length by police.

McCannon did not respond to police questions, but he did provide two prepared statements.

One of the statements claimed he had the latex gloves because he had just poured some pre-filled drums of oil into a tank after running out.

O'Hanlon also provided a prepared statement in which she admitted knowing there was a plastic bag on the shelf of her bedroom, although she claimed to not know what was inside.

She also made the case that she had used the grinder once to grind pinhead oats into flour.

The couple were subsequently charged with multiple terrorist offences including making explosives with intent to endanger life, possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances and the preparation of terrorist acts.

The case continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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