Belfast Telegraph

Cross-border link to Belfast golf club car bomb - appeal over two suspect vehicles

Cross-border hunt for gang behind golf club murder bid on officer

The device was hidden under the car at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast
The device was hidden under the car at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast
Detective Superintendent Sean Wright and Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke
Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A cross-border investigation has been launched after a sophisticated bomb was found under an off-duty policeman's car parked outside a Belfast golf club.

It is understood the alarm was raised after a golfer made the chilling discovery in the car park of Shandon Park at around 1pm on Saturday.

Yesterday police appealed for information about two vehicles they believe were used in the attack, which they suspect was carried out by dissident republicans.

One of the cars, a Republic-registered green Skoda Octavia with the number plate 01 D 78089, is of central interest to the PSNI's terrorism investigation unit. The other vehicle of interest is a silver Saab 95, registration NFZ 3216.

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright urged anyone who was in the area of Green Road, Knock Hill Park, Upper Newtownards Road or Shandon Park between 10pm on Friday and 7.30am on Saturday to contact police.

"We are trying to narrow down when the device was deployed, where it was deployed and who deployed it," he said.

The target, who is believed to be a top officer, had completed his full round of golf before the incident and the club was evacuated.

Investigators are particularly keen to hear from local residents who have CCTV cameras installed on their properties or drivers with dash cams who were in the vicinity.

Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke said those behind the attack sought to kill a police officer and "inflict misery" on his family and the local community.

"They were prepared in their evil attempt to murder a police officer and to put at risk his whole family, people in the vicinity and people in the golf club," he said.

"It is worth remembering that at that golf club were families and children enjoying their afternoon."

He said the bomb was driven through a busy residential area before being "recklessly, cruelly and viciously" fitted to the officer's car with the "clear intent to murder".

Mr Clarke said the officer who escaped death or serious injury is "in the habit" of checking underneath his vehicle.

"He's obviously shaken by the fact that people chose to attempt to murder him and were reckless in what they would have done to him and to his family," he added.

"He is upset. I think, like many professional police officers, he doesn't understand why people want to murder public servants.

"We will do our very best to help support him through what will be a very difficult and traumatic time in the days to come."

Detectives are examining CCTV footage from the golf club, which is located close to the PSNI headquarters on the Knock Road.

Yesterday the Shandon Park car park remained sealed off and police maintained a presence at the scene.

Det Supt Wright, who heads up the terrorism investigation unit, said he is "keeping an open mind" about where the "sufficiently sophisticated" device was deployed.

He confirmed that his main line of enquiry is that "violent dissident republicans" were behind the attack which he said could have killed the officer targeted, a member of his family or a member of the public.

However, Mr Wright would not be drawn on which particular terror group he suspects.

It comes after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee at the hands of the New IRA in April.

The 29-year-old was shot dead while observing rioting in Londonderry.

In March the terror group claimed responsibility for five letter bombs mailed to numerous locations across Britain and the Republic. The New IRA was also responsible for a car bomb which exploded outside Bishop Street Courthouse in Derry in January.

The Police Federation has called on all officers to be extra vigilant following the latest dissident attack.

The threat against officers has been classified as "severe" ever since the first murder of a PSNI officer a decade ago.

Constable Stephen Carroll (48) was shot dead in Craigavon after being lured to a callout in 2009.

Two years later Ronan Kerr (25) was killed when a booby-trap bomb exploded under his car outside his home near Omagh.

He had only joined the PSNI a year earlier.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay (52) died in hospital 11 days after a dissident bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast.

The married father-of-three required surgery after an explosive device partially detonated a short distance from his home as he went over a speed ramp.

Politicians have united in condemnation of the latest attack, which DUP leader Arlene Foster said "would have achieved nothing but broken hearts".

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly called for those "dragging society backwards" to disband immediately.

Alliance leader Naomi Long branded the murder bid as "utterly despicable".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood warned that there is "absolutely nothing patriotic about planting bombs under Irish police officers' cars".

He issued a call for those who were responsible to be "faced down".

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