Lurgan man guilty of planting under-car bomb in police murder bid
A Co Armagh man has been found guilty of the attempted murder of a police officer at his home using a booby-trap car bomb.
Sean McVeigh (38), of Victoria Street in Lurgan, had been on trial in August last year over the terrorist murder bid.
He denied the attempted murder of a police officer at his Glenrandel home in Eglinton, Co Londonderry on June 18, 2015 during his non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court.
McVeigh also denied possession of the under vehicle improvised explosive device (UNVIED).
Giving his lengthy ruling on Friday, Judge Stephen Fowler QC said he was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt'' that McVeigh was the man who planted the device under the PSNI officer's car.
He rejected defence arguments during the trial that traces of RDX explosives found on McVeigh's clothing were from an "innocent contamination''.
Judge Fowler said he also drew an inference from McVeigh's refusal to give evidence at his trial and said he was satisfied the defendant was a front seat passenger in the car which took him to and from the scene of the planned attack.
He also rejected defence submissions that the device was not capable of detonation and could have been an elaborate hoax device.
The trial judge said it was a fully functioning device, containing 322 grammes of Semtex explosives with RDX being the main component.
Contained inside a black box, measuring 20cms x 15 cms x 20cms, he said the device was equipped with detonator, battery, circuit board, timer unit, mercury tilt switch, two toggles and a copper cone.
The copper cone was designed that "on detonation it was deformed by the blast into a 'slug' or rod shaped projectile".
In a subsequent field test conducted on a similar model of car as that of the policeman, it "showed that anyone sitting on the driving seat would have sustained serious and possibly fatal injuries".
Said Judge Fowler: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this was a viable device.
"I am also satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that this device was constructed and planted under the car with the intent to kill the driver once the vehicle was moved.
"I find the defendant guilty on both counts one and two on the Bill of Indicmtment.''
Judge Fowler remanded the defendant into custody and McVeigh will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.
It was the prosecution case that McVeigh was part of a joint enterprise with others to try and kill the police officer by planting the device under his Ford Mondeo car which was parked in the driveway of his home.
His wife, who was a serving police officer at the time, had told detectives that she was asleep but woke up and looked out of her bedroom window.
Now retired from the PSNI, she spoke of her "sheer disbelief" on seeing a "skinny man" attaching to her husband's car what turned out to be a new type of improvised under-car explosive device.
She said that she was also "so shocked" she rapped so hard on the bedroom window of her bungalow home in that it "bruised" her knuckles.
The would-be bomber, her statement added, "must have croaked himself" because he immediately "legged it ... took to his heels" down the driveway, turned right and into a waiting dark car.
The court heard she immediately rang police and call handlers at Maydown PSNI dispatched three response vehicles to the scene.
The court heard evidence from a number of police officers who said they spotted two cars "travelling in convoy'' from the Waterside towards the cityside of Derry.
During the trial, the judge heard evidence from another police officer who said he was on patrol in the early hours of June 18, 2015, in the cityside of Derry when he received a message over his radio to go to the Foyle Bridge and set up a checkpoint.
The constable said that he and another patrol vehicle went onto the bridge and pulled up on the inside lane and "we put our blue lights on'' and were in the process of setting up the checkpoint.
"I stepped out of my vehicle and I could hear vehicles approaching from the Waterside area of Derry.
"I turned around and there was a brow of a hill. I could see the headlights of a car approaching.
"I stepped out into the middle of the road with my torch. I then realised the vehicles were travelling at a really, really excessive speed and I wasn't going to be able to stop them so I stepped off the road''.
He confirmed to the court that both vehicles made no attempt to slow down.
The officer said the vehicles were "travelling so fast'' he and his colleagues were unable to set up the vehicle checkpoint.
He told the court that one of the cars was a "saloon type vehicle with a southern registration'' and said he was able to identify that in the saloon vehicle was a driver who was wearing a hat and a front seat passenger.
The constable said the second vehicle was "extremely close'' to the saloon car. "There was only a short distance between the two vehicles.''
He added that he believed the car then headed in the direction of the Madam's Bank Road and radioed this into PSNI Maydown.
The two vehicles were subsequently identified from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) and CCTV cameras as a black Volkswagen Passat and a Toyota Verso, both with Republic of Ireland registration and both had been stolen.
As a result, police at PSNI Maydown alerted colleagues in An Garda Siochana based in Letterkenny. The vehicles travelled to Lifford where the Toyota was abandoned.
The trial heard that as the Passat drove towards Ballybofey, Co Donegal, it was spotted by a specialist Garda armed response unit who gave chase, stopping the car by blocking its path about a mile outside the village of Killygordon.
Along with the driver, and a rear seat passenger, McVeigh was found sitting in the front passenger seat.
In a follow-up search of the route taken by the Passat, Garda found three pairs of Tesco Marigold type gloves, later found to have traces of explosives residue.
In addition RDX explosive traces were also found on McVeigh's black outer jacket and tracksuit bottoms.
Further traces of RDX were also found on swabs taken from the front seat of the VW car, the interior door handles and from the rear seat.
Similar explosive traces were found on the Toyota car located six days later in the car park where it had been left that night.
Following his arrest under Section 30 of the Republic's Offences Against the State Act, the court heard McVeigh gave his name and date of birth but refused to answer any Garda questions.
He was subsequently released on bail by Garda detectives.
The trial heard that McVeigh was finally arrested over the murder bid in Eglinton by the PSNI detectives on a Lurgan bound train almost a year later in May 2016.
Belfast Telegraph Digital