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Dissident Marine Maxwell’s target list included PSNI bases and power stations in Northern Ireland

By Henry Vaughan

A Royal Marine turned dissident republican bomb-maker had a satellite map of targets including Larne PSNI station with a "blast radius put on top of it", the Old Bailey has heard.

Ciaran Maxwell (31) stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs - four of which were deployed - in purpose-built hides in Northern Ireland and England.

Other potential targets in Northern Ireland included power stations, which were highlighted on the satellite map.

Maxwell also had street maps of military barracks, a council building and an Orange hall, as well as details of the addresses of HMRC offices in Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Office in Westminster and London's National Crime Agency headquarters.

Other files included the names and contact details of PSNI officers and a police/MI5 officer in the UK, the court heard.

Chemicals and materials to make more bombs, as well as an adapted PSNI pass card, a PSNI uniform and a police stab-proof vest were found in the barrels and buckets buried in the ground.

Maxwell, of Exminster in Devon, who is originally from Larne in Co Antrim, claimed after he was arrested on August 24 last year that he had "got in over his head" and had no intention of committing an act of terrorism or killing anyone.

But prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said: "Mr Maxwell repeatedly accepted that the devices would be used by others for terrorist purposes. For example, he agreed with the statement that the items were made for the Continuity IRA (CIRA) with the intention of attacking police and police stations."

The court heard one plan involved planting hoax devices along with secondary live bombs to "kill police officers".

Maxwell faces years behind bars when he is sentenced tomorrow after pleading guilty in February to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August last year, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

Maxwell - now discharged from the Royal Marines - appeared in court on Wednesday by video-link from Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes.

He was a serving Royal Marine with 40 Commando and based at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton at the time of the offences, and was deployed in the US, Cyprus and the UK - but not Northern Ireland - after enlisting in 2010.

"Between 1 January 2011 and 24 August 2016, Mr Maxwell researched the manufacture and construction of explosives, acquired the items he needed to make explosive devices and constructed the devices," Mr Whittam said.

"He stored the items he needed to make the devices, the devices themselves, ammunition, weapons, tools and resources in hides across England and Northern Ireland.

"He engaged in research to create of a library of maps, plans and lists of potential targets for a terrorist attack."

Along with the 14 pipe bombs, Maxwell also stashed two anti-personnel directional mines, two explosively formed projectiles (EFPs), 29 complete firing systems, a hoard of detonators and other components parts for homemade bombs.

The court heard he had stashed more materials and chemicals to make explosives, as well as a replica handgun and ammunition.

The court heard that dissident republicans have carried out more than 160 terrorist attacks since 2010 and it was "commonplace" for Northern Ireland-based terrorist groups to conceal bomb-making equipment and other terrorist material in purpose-built hides.

The prosecutor described how a walker stumbled on one of Maxwell's in Carnfunnock Country Park, near Larne, in March last year.

Another was found in Capanagh Forest in Co Antrim in May by someone searching for a suitable place to camp, the court heard.

The court heard that ammunition used by the Armed Forces was found along with bomb-making materials and improvised explosive devices - homemade bombs.

He added: "It is our case that some of the items inevitably must have been taken from the UK to Northern Ireland by this defendant and it may be that, when travelling between England and the UK, bearing in mind the identity cards he would have had and his position, his passage would have been easier than others to take items with him."

The court heard Maxwell was being watched by police by the middle of August last year and was repeatedly seen going to and from Powderham New Plantation, near Teignbridge, Devon.

The court heard he looked "shocked" when he was arrested on suspicion of terror offences at his base in Taunton, Somerset, on August 24.

From a search of his work locker, officers seized cannabis and hallucinogenic drugs DMT and LSD, while items including hand-written notes were recovered from his Exminster home.

On one, headed "Easter Leave", was written "test pipe bomb" and "recce (of a town in Northern Ireland redacted in court)".

The court heard similar "to do lists" were found in one of 13 hides initially found by police in the Powderham woods.

"Some things obtained, to get, some things to be tested," the prosecutor explained.

From September 2 Maxwell provided police with "extensive information" about further hides and items in Powderham, including a modified torch, which was designed to act as a booby-trap, exploding in the hand of anyone who tried to turn it on.

He also told officers about more hides in Northern Ireland, including at the Old Bleach Works in Larne, where he said he had been with his friend Niall Lehd, who told Maxwell he was part of the Continuity IRA.

Among the items found were five pipe bombs and DDNP - a high explosive seen in Northern Ireland for only the second time.

The first example was recovered following an explosion in Larne, after which Lehd was jailed after pleading guilty to possessing an explosive substance with intent to endanger life in 2014.

The court heard the February 2013 blast was one of four pipe bomb "deployments" linked to Maxwell.

A detonated pipe bomb was recovered following an explosion in December last year, while another undetonated device was found against a windowsill of a house in Carnlough.

Components of a fourth pipe bomb were found in Belfast.

The sentencing hearing continues today.

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