Belfast Telegraph

Christine Connor trial: Pipe bomb allegations 'ridiculous', says defendant

Christine Connor at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday. Credit: Alan Lewis
Christine Connor at Belfast Crown Court on Tuesday. Credit: Alan Lewis

By Ashleigh McDonald

A north Belfast woman has branded as "ridiculous" an allegation that she transported pipe bombs in a Tesco bag just prior to an attack on police.

Christine Connor is standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on six charges arising from two incidents involving pipe bombs in May 2013. The first occurred in the Ligoniel Road on May 16, with the second happening on the Crumlin Road on May 28.

The 34-year-old has denied all six charges - including attempting to murder police officers, possessing explosives and causing an explosion - and was called to the witness box on Tuesday.

Under questioning from her barrister Tim Moloney QC, Connor spoke of her Republican background and her involvement with the Republican Network for Unity (RNU).

When questioned about the two incidents in north Belfast, Connor admitted she was out for an early morning walk in the area at the time of the second incident, but denied involvement in both incidents.

Mr Moloney began his questioning by asking his client about her education, family background and employment history.

She was then asked whether Republican politics was an important part of her upbringing, to which she said "yes, very much so". Connor said that around late 2012 and early 2013, she was actively involved with RNU which she described as "a political organisation, not an armed group".

Connor said she and other members took part in protests, pickets and camp-outs "to highlight the plight of republican prisoners", with one such protest taking place outside the Alliance Party HQ in south Belfast when the party's David Ford was Justice Minister.

When asked about other organisations, Connor said she was "not aware" of United Struggle" and was "aware of... but not part of" ONH.

Mr Moloney then turned to the "specifics of the allegations of the offences" she was charged with.

She was asked about former co-accused Stuart Downes, who was charged with offences linked to the incident. Downes - who the Crown say assisted Connor by purchasing component parts for the pipe bombs and ensuring they were delivered to Northern Ireland - died in June 2016.

Connor denied communicating with Mr Downes and when she was asked if she ever pretended to be Swedish model Sanne Anderson, she replied: "no".

Mr Moloney then questioned his client about movie clips - one of which was found on Mr Downes phone and another on a laptop found in a mattress in her bedroom.

It's the Crown's case that one of the clips is Connor conducting a "dry-run" of the route she planned to take before launching the first pipe bomb attack on May 16.

Connor denied making the video, and when asked "is that your voice on it?", she replied "no it definitely is not." She also denied being involved in the incident.

Mr Moloney then turned to the events of May 28, and when he asked Connor "were you out and about that night?", she said she was. When asked why, she said: "It is something that I did regularly.

"If the police had gone through CCTV for the weeks, months and days before that, they would have noticed that. It was something I did regularly."

Connor then outlined the route she took, which included walking on the Ligoniel and Crumlin Roads as well as roads and streets in Ardoyne.

Connor was then asked if she brought a bag with her and she replied "yes... for water. I have type two Diabetes and I'm constantly drinking water."

When asked what type of bag it was, Connor said it was a Tesco reusable bag. And when Mr Moloney asked Connor "did you carry pipe bombs in that bag?", she replied "don't be ridiculous."

Connor was also asked about hearing loud bangs when out walking at around 2am. She said she was "about four minutes from the junction of Crumlin Road and Ligoniel Road" when she heard the bangs.

Connor said she recalled talking to a woman on the street who was in her pyjamas, they had a brief chat about the bangs and that Connor told the woman she had dropped her phone.

The final line of questioning was about her arrest on May 29, 2013 and the police interviews.

Connor denied putting a laptop and other material in a mattress found in her bedroom, and when asked about a pair of boots also seized, Connor said they didn't fit her and weren't her size.

Mr Moloney closed his questioning by asking Connor why she gave no response to questions asked during multiple police interviews. Connor said that whilst in custody in Antrim for seven days following her arrest, she had two different solicitors - both of whom advised her to make no comment.

The non-jury trial is due to resume on Wednesday morning when Connor is expected to be cross-examined by a Crown barrister.

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