Belfast Telegraph

Derry bomb dissident Poleon was suspect in murder bid on Chief Constable

By Sean O'Driscoll

A New IRA member jailed for planting a bomb at a police recruitment event in Londonderry was suspected of trying to blow up the PSNI Chief Constable in a letterbomb attack.

Darren Poleon (43) was arrested in prison last February and also questioned about an attack at Palace Barracks in Co Down that destroyed a Royal Mail van, narrowly avoiding killing a postal worker.

Poleon was jailed on Thursday for planting a bomb at the Waterfoot Hotel in Derry, which was due to go off as people gathered for the recruitment event.

A bail hearing in Derry last year heard that the device found at the Waterfoot Hotel in October 2015 had similarities to an incendiary bomb used to attack the Everglades Hotel in the city on May 29, 2014.

The court also heard it bore similarities to a device used in a parcel bomb attack on Palace Barracks two months after the Waterfoot Hotel incident, and in an attempted letterbomb attack on Chief Constable George Hamilton last January.

The Everglades Hotel attack in 2014 was in revenge for a PSNI recruitment seminar there the previous week.

A masked man dropped a bag at reception and told everyone to get out.

It later exploded as the Army was trying to defuse it.

A later analysis of the GPS system on Poleon's car showed that he and his co-accused Brian Walsh criss-crossed Northern Ireland staking out venues hosting police recruitment seminars before opting to bomb the Waterfoot.

The device was hidden in a fire extinguisher and was due to explode as potential PSNI recruits were in the hotel.

Poleon, from Drumbaragh, Kells, and Walsh (35), from Culmullen, Dunshaughlin - both in Co Meath - pleaded guilty at Belfast's Laganside court to possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and possession of articles for use in terrorism on October 6, 2015.

They were jailed last week for five years, with an additional five years on licence.

Poleon had booked himself into the Waterfoot and was planning to move the fire extinguisher inside the hotel and hang it on the wall where the recruitment seminar was taking place.

The bomb, which was packed with shrapnel, was timed to explode during the presentation and kill as many police officers and potential recruits as possible.

The device was made up of 1.5kg of explosives and a detonator.

Officers linked the two men to the plot after they saw them driving erratically in Omagh, Co Tyrone, a few days before the device was discovered.

They found bolt cutters, walkie-talkies, wigs and a toy gun inside the car and charged the men with conspiracy to commit robbery.

When they were released on bail, PSNI officers examined the car's GPS and assessed that the men had driven all over Northern Ireland, assessing the bombing potential of venues where PSNI recruitment drives were due to take place.

At a bail hearing last year, a judge refused to grant them release after learning that they were living in Meath.

The bail hearing was told that Poleon's DNA was found on the Waterfoot bomb.

The DNA of both men was discovered on a walkie-talkie found inside the car when they were stopped in Omagh.

During interview, Poleon claimed the walkie-talkie belonged to his children.

A PSNI officer told the court that the walkie-talkie was a "sophisticated piece of equipment", and that Poleon's explanation was not credible.

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