Belfast Telegraph

IRA attack accused freed as judge hits out at arrest delay

By Alan Erwin

Prosecutors failed in an appeal against bail being granted to a man accused of an IRA bomb attack on a Co Tyrone police station 18 years ago.

A High Court judge upheld the decision to release 37-year-old Paul Campbell from custody after being told police had information but did not try to arrest him between 1997 and 2011.

Mr Justice Horner said: "It seems absolutely extraordinary that no steps were taken to detain him."

Campbell, of The Mills in Coalisland, is charged with causing an explosion with intent to endanger life at Coalisland police station in 1997.

The father-of-three was arrested at a railway station in Portadown, Co Armagh, last weekend.

On the night of the grenade attack SAS soldiers opened fire on the suspected bombers, the court heard.

One man shot at the scene was later convicted of the attack, serving two years of a 10-year prison sentence before being released as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

But a second suspect escaped in a Toyota car belonging to local parish priest Fr Seamus Rice amid a hail of bullets, according to the prosecution. The cleric told police at the time he had slowed down upon hearing explosions and a man unknown to him jumped in the back and demanded that he drive off.

Based on modern DNA testing on bloodstains found in his car it was claimed that Campbell had been the injured passenger.

A man calling himself John Murphy was said to have arrived at a hospital in Co Louth following the bombing claiming to have been in a road accident.

But medical staff alerted gardai after they realised he had suffered a gunshot wound, the court heard. The patient was identified as Campbell and arrested for questioning in the Republic. He was later released and returned to Coalisland, with information passed on to the police in Northern Ireland.

Prosecution counsel accepted inaction from that point until 2011, when unrelated searches led to the recovery of a DNA sample, represented a "difficulty" in the case.

It was claimed Campbell fled across the border to Monaghan after realising he was wanted.

Following his detention he made no comment to police questioning throughout 14 interviews.

Campbell was ordered to lodge a £10,000 cash surety, surrender any passport and is banned from leaving Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph


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