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Belfast woman Christine Connor found guilty of attempting to murder police officer

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Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

North Belfast woman Christine Connor was remanded into custody on Wednesday after being found guilty of offences including attempting to murder a police officer.

In a ruling that took over three hours to deliver at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Stephen Fowler told the 35-year old that she will be sentenced for four offences next month.

Police welcomed the verdict saying the investigation had been "hugely complex and an unusual case spanning over seven years and involving UK police services working together".

Following the hearing Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said: "This was an attack on police officers, who were carrying out their role of protecting communities. I would like to pay particular thanks to them. This was a traumatic experience for them and I acknowledge that as victims they have waited a very long time for today’s outcome.

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Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

Christine Connor pictured arriving at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday. Photo by Press Eye.

“Today’s conviction is the result of excellent joint working between the PSNI and West Mercia Police alongside the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and we will now await the sentencing.”

The charges relate to two incidents in the north of the city in May 2013, including an attack on police who were lured to the scene by a bogus 999 call she made claiming to be the victim of domestic violence.

Despite her denials of involvement in the attack on police on May 28, 2013, Judge Fowler ruled that she was "clearly involved in the planning, making and deployment of the pipe bombs," that she threw two pipes bombs at an officer from an alleyway and that her intention was to kill him.

In the first incident on May 16, she undertook a trial run and threw a pipe bomb on the Ligoniel Road. In the early hours, she made a 999 call and claimed that a device had been left on a wall at a house.

A couple driving home from the airport were travelling on the road when the device exploded, but no damage was caused to their vehicle.

She again made a bogus 999 call to police at around 2am on May 28, 2013 with the intention of luring police to the Crumlin Road.

During the call, Connor rang the PSNI to tearfully claim her name was Gemma and that she had been punched by her boyfriend.

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Damage caused to a window frame during the bomb attack

Damage caused to a window frame during the bomb attack

PA

Damage caused to a window frame during the bomb attack

Police attended a house on the Crumlin Road, and as one officer was knocking the front door, a pipe bomb was thrown at another officer from a nearby alleyway, who had to take cover.

Judge Fowler said there was "an accumulation of evidence ... connecting the defendant inextricably to the scene", including a hoodie top which bore her blood and which was found in a skip at the opposite end of the alleyway.

Also found close to the alley were a Tesco bag, gloves with her DNA on them and her Nokia phone. In addition, the Judge noted that she left her boot imprint in dog faeces in the alleyway.

Connor, whose address is subject to a reporting restriction, was charged with - and denied - attempted murder, two counts of causing an explosion likely to endanger life and the preparation of terrorist acts.

She was charged alongside Stuart Downes from Shrewsbury. The 31-year old was subsequently granted bail, and was found dead in woodland near his home in June 2016.

Judge Fowler said the Crown case was built on a "combination of circumstantial, physical and forensic evidence", and that she and Downes were "engaged in the preparation of terrorist acts, between February and May 2013.

"Together they researched pipe bombs with Downes purchasing component parts and ensuring they were dispatched to and received in Northern Ireland where they were deployed by Connor."

During the trial, the Crown said Connor and Downes met online and established a relationship when Connor was posing as a blonde, Swedish model called Sanne Anderson.

When arrested, Connor denied she knew Downes and rejected claims she communicated with him. She continued these denials during the trial - however in his ruling, Judge Fowler said there was overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise.

Judge Fowler said that the month before the two explosions, an "intense relationship" via SMS and Facebook messages developed between Connor and Downes as they researched information on pipe bombs.

During her arrest on May 29, 2013, police searched Connor's home and found two laptops and a phone hidden in a mattress in a bedroom.

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Police at the scene of a pipe bomb attack on PSNI officers

Police at the scene of a pipe bomb attack on PSNI officers

Police at the scene of a pipe bomb attack on PSNI officers

When these devices were examined a movie file was located which depicts a female walking in north Belfast and talking about police.

This video was described as a 'practice run' and despite denials she had made the video, Judge Fowler ruled it was Connor in the film. This same clip was also located on Downes mobile.

The Judge also ruled that the laptops found in the mattress were linked to Connor, and that prior to the May 2013 explosions, online searches such as 'how to make pipe bombs in your kitchen' had been made.

Regarding the incident at the Crumlin Road on May 28, Judge Fowler said Connor had admitted being in the area at the time of the explosion but had told police she was a member of Weightwatchers and had been out exercising.

In his ruling, the Judge raised the issue of Connor's refusal to answer police question during interview about the presence of gloves, a hoodie mobile and Tesco bag at the scene of the second incident which all bore her DNA - and why she gave an explanation during her trial.

During the trial, Connor have various explanations about the presence of these items. When asked if she had brought the pipe bombs to the scene in the Tesco bag, Connor said 'don't be ridiculous' and claimed she had water in her bag.

Judge Fowler said that having had "the benefit of seeing and hearing the defendant give evidence and be cross-examined, I found her evasive, argumentative and, when it suited her, refused to answer questions".

Connor said she didn't answer police questions following her arrest in May 2013 due to legal advice given by her solicitor.

Judge Fowler said this was "a convenient shield to hide behind", adding he believed she had "invented" the answers she later gave in court to try and explain both her presence and items linked to her at the scene.

Finding Connor guilty on the four charges, Judge Fowler said that after considering all the evidence, there was a "compelling case that the defendant Christine Connor threw the two pipe bombs from the alleyway of the Crumlin Road towards the Constable and at the time of doing so, she intended to kill him".

Judge Fowler remanded Connor into custody and said he would sentence her on August 20th.

Belfast Telegraph