Belfast Telegraph

Facebook page used to plot terror removed after Belfast Telegraph plea

By Victoria Leonard

A Facebook page used by convicted criminal Christine Connor to communicate with two men caught up in her terrorist plot has been removed by the social media company, after the Belfast Telegraph highlighted that it was still available online.

Republican page 'United Struggle,' which had 183 followers and was available on Facebook for four-and-a-half years, was used by Connor to communicate with Zachary Gevelinger from the USA and Stuart Downes from Shrewsbury.

Both men later took their own lives.

Before its removal this week, the community page, which said members would "engage in an array of activities ranging from property destruction to the occupation of government buildings," had featured a post praising Connor as "the sister of a former POW and daughter of a well-respected Republican activist."

Earlier this week, Connor was sentenced to 16 years and four months in prison after she posed as a Swedish model to entrap two men into taking part in her bid to murder police officers.

On May 28, 2013, Connor threw "grenade-like" improvised explosive devices at police in the Ballysillan area of north Belfast.

At her sentencing on Tuesday, Judge McFarland told Connor he believed she was dangerous and was "committed to a violent philosophy to achieve political objectives".

A senior PSNI detective described Connor as "a dangerous woman who exploited others to further her own twisted ideologies".

The PSNI said that 31-year-old Downes, who jointly faced five charges including attempted murder, possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life, had played a "key part in the attacks".

Evidence showed he had sourced component parts and shipped them to his Belfast accomplice.

The PSNI also arrested and questioned Gevelinger after he visited Connor in Hydebank Prison on July 6, 2013. They found correspondence from him to Connor in her house, as well as cheques he had sent her.

The FBI searched Gevelinger's house in the US and seized computer equipment which confirmed the link to Connor.

A PSNI spokesperson previously said: "We know she communicated with these men via a 'United Struggle' Facebook page she created - for her one-member organisation. Neither of these men, who are now both deceased, had previous connections to Northern Ireland or to Northern Ireland related terrorism." Despite this, 'United Struggle' had claimed that Connor was not a member of the group, nor had she participated in "any actions that we may have carried out."

PSNI Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said that the United Struggle Facebook page was "not the main method of communication used by Christine Connor while planning her attack on police officers".

He added: "The PSNI contacted Facebook as part of our investigations into the attempted murder attacks in 2013. As there was no criminal content detected at that stage, no request was made for the page to be removed."

The Belfast Telegraph had not received an official response from Facebook at the time of going to press.

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