Belfast Telegraph

Dissident convicted of bomb murder bid on PSNI officer facing 25 years in prison

Booby-trap: Sean McVeigh
Booby-trap: Sean McVeigh

By John Cassidy

A man convicted of attempting to murder an off-duty PSNI officer at his home using a "sophisticated" under-car bomb could face up to 25 years in prison, a court has heard.

Sean McVeigh was found guilty last month at his non-jury trial of trying to kill the officer in 2015 and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

Judge Stephen Fowler QC told Belfast Crown Court yesterday that the attack was a "well thought-out, planned terrorist plot" against a police officer, and the device was "an elaborate one, carefully constructed to ensure maximum damage".

He said he was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt" that McVeigh (38), of Victoria Gardens in Lurgan, was the man who tried to plant the device packed with more than 300 grammes of high-grade Semtex explosives.

In 2014 McVeigh was charged with the murder of David Black, who was shot dead on the M1 in November 2012 as he made his way to work at the high security Maghaberry Prison. The 52-year-old father-of-two was the first prison officer to be murdered in almost 20 years and the killing was claimed by the New IRA.

As well as murder, McVeigh was also charged with possessing an assault rifle with intent to endanger life. However, the charges were dropped by the Public Prosecution Service.

After walking free from Craigavon Magistrates Court in July 2014, McVeigh signalled his intention to sue the PPS and PSNI for the time he spent in custody.

But less than a year later the dissident republican targeted the police officer in Eglinton.

McVeigh was disturbed by the wife of the off-duty officer as he attached the bomb under his car parked in the driveway of their Glenrandel home on June 18, 2015.

The woman told the trial that she banged on her bedroom window at the man so hard she "bruised her knuckles".

Following the murder bid, joiner McVeigh fled in a stolen Volkswagen Passat.

The PSNI in Derry alerted the Garda in Donegal and the Passat was later stopped by an armed response unit near Killygordon. McVeigh and two other men were arrested.

Marigold gloves were found on the road, which contained explosive traces.

RDX explosive traces were also found on McVeigh's black outer jacket and tracksuit bottoms.

McVeigh was later released on bail by Garda, along with Ciaran Maguire and Sean Farrell, who are currently awaiting extradition from the Republic over the murder plot.

The trial heard that McVeigh was finally arrested by PSNI detectives on a Lurgan-bound train in May 2016.

Outlining the aggravating features in the case yesterday, a senior prosecution QC described the attempted bomb attack as a "terrorist plot to murder a police officer". He added: "It was a plan with a degree of sophistication. At least three people were involved and two cars were used."

He said the bomb was an "improvised under vehicle device... it was an unusual device containing 321g of RDX explosives".

The police officer and his wife, said the QC, either individually or together could have been seriously injured or killed if they had have got into the car.

But for the "fortuitous intervention" of the policeman's wife, said the prosecutor, "multiple deaths or the risk of at least one life, would likely have been lost".

He referred the judge to previous terrorist-related cases for similar type offences where sentences of between 22 and 25 years had been imposed.

The lawyer said that given McVeigh's conviction for serious offences, the court had to consider whether he posed a danger to the public in the future.

Defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC said no evidence had been presented to the court that McVeigh posed any danger to the public in the future and there was nothing to suggest he would involve himself in such similar type offending in the future.

Judge Fowler said he would pass sentence next Friday.

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