Belfast Telegraph

Bomb bid a wake-up call for police to be more vigilant, says retired sergeant

Officers are urged to take more care
Officers are urged to take more care

By Lisa Smyth

A failed bomb attack on a serving police officer should act as a wake-up call to all PSNI employees, it has been warned.

A recently retired PSNI sergeant, who worked as a police officer for more than 36 years, has described the murder bid as "brazen" and said it has sent shockwaves throughout the force.

"Ordinarily, in attacks like these, officers' vehicles are targeted at their home address," he said.

"We don't know where the device was planted, but if it was left under the car in a public place, where there is CCTV, that raises all sorts of questions.

"The time it takes to plant these bombs is minimal, but even still, doing it somewhere public with CCTV, and not outside a police officer's house under the cover of darkness, is still a big risk to take.

"These attacks are not opportunistic, a lot of time and effort goes into them."

The former sergeant said that because the device had not detonated, "there's an opportunity to gather forensic evidence".

He added: "If the bomb was planted at the golf club, then it just hammers home that whoever did it was familiar with this officer's movements and either followed him there or knew he would be there.

"Either way, it's a sobering thought and should act as a wake-up call to anyone who works for the police.

"We're all aware that the threat level is severe and has been for quite a while - it's drilled into officers how important it is to take your personal security seriously, and checking under your car and varying your routes are important parts of that.

"Certainly the advice officers are given is that they should check under their vehicles whenever they have been left unattended, but people do get complacent."

The ex-officer said the failed attack should put current staff on their guard.

"There's a tendency to only check your car when you get up in the morning, and I know I didn't check under mine when I was out and about.

"This will hopefully make people a bit more aware, to make sure they aren't being followed, to check their cars before they get in, that they need to take their personal security seriously.

"At the end of the day, this officer's life has been turned upside down. He will now have to leave his home and if he has family, their whole lives have been turned upside down too.

"He will be coming to terms with what could have happened and everything that comes with the aftermath of an attack like this, which is the side the public don't see."

The Police Federation has also said the failed attack is an important reminder to police officers that they should take serious steps to protect themselves.

A spokesman said: "As long as the threat level is severe, the risk to police officers' lives remains high, and the advice we would offer to all our officers is to take all necessary precautions by being vigilant by checking their vehicles once, twice, three, or as many times a day as necessary to stay safe."

Under-car booby traps are a well-known method used by republican terrorists targeting police officers in Northern Ireland.

Ronan Kerr (25) died in 2011 after a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car outside his home near Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Former constable Peadar Heffron was left fighting for his life after a device left under his car by dissident republicans detonated as he drove to work in January 2010.

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