Belfast Telegraph

Coalisland RUC station bomb contained 'high grade explosives', court told

Paul Campbell at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of attempted murder during an alleged IRA attack on Coalisland Police Station on County Tyrone.
Paul Campbell at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of attempted murder during an alleged IRA attack on Coalisland Police Station on County Tyrone.

By John Cassidy

A senior Army Technical Officer has told a trial that an attack on an RUC station over two decades ago was a blast bomb device which contained "high grade commercial or military explosives''.

The Brigadier with the Explosives Ordnance Division (EOD) was giving evidence at the Diplock-style non-jury trial of Paul Campbell at Belfast Crown Court.

The 41-year-old of The Mils, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, has been charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life, on March 26, 1997.

Campbell, who was 19 at the time of the attack, has denied both offences.

It is the prosecution case that Campbell was one of two men who launched the attack, that he was shot by a soldier as he fled from the RUC station, and that he jumped into a priest's car that was parked nearby.

It is also the Crown's case that Campbell's DNA was found in the back seat of the priest's car, which was driven from the scene.

The bomb disposal officer, who was a captain at the time, told the trial that the day after the attack on Coalisland RUC station, he was tasked from his base at Drumadd Barracks in Co Armagh to the scene of the explosion with three EOD (explosive ordnance device) colleagues.

After setting up an incident control point, the officer said: "I looked down a laneway and could see an obvious hole in a fence.''

On closer inspection, the senior ATO said the device had penetrated the cladding on the exterior wall of the base and he believed it had been caused by a "blast bomb device. These devices generally contain high grade commercial or military explosives''.

He told trial judge Belfast Recorder David McFarland the impact of the blast was about "three metres'' up the wall of the station.

"I had to climb up a ladder on to the roof of garages to look at the hole. It was about three metres or ten feet.''

Asked by defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC to describe the bomb. The senior ATO said: "It was a very simple but effective rudimentary device.''

He confirmed to the court that no other device was found and discounted the theory that two bombs had been involved in the attack.

The Brigadier told the trial he was subsequently asked to return to the scene of the explosion after a weapon was found by police search teams which had been under a concrete slab.

He said he examined the weapon "in situ'' and described it as a starting pistol, adding: "It had been there for some times, weeks or months.''

Under cross examination from Mr Pownall, the officer confirmed that Coalisland police station was covered by CCTV cameras.

Asked if he viewed any CCTV footage, he replied: "I was not shown any CCTV footage. I can't recall a reason why I wasn't shown any (CCTV footage).

A prosecution barrister later read into court the statement of a female witness was said she was present in Coalisland on the evening of the attack with a friend sitting on a bench.

She told police she recalled seeing a white car passing with a man lying out the back window.

The witness said she also saw four cars pull up and ten men get out who she described as all wearing similar clothing of "black jackets, black jeans, white gutties and black caps'', with one telling her and her friend "to get down to f***'.

She said that five feet from her she saw a "young man lying on the ground, he was lying face down and a man was standing over him pointing a gun''.

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