RUC bomb attack accused claims Michael Stone look-a-like 'was on killing rampage,' court hears
A Co Tyrone man accused of bombing an RUC station has denied involvement and instead claimed he thought a man who looked like Michael Stone was "on a killing rampage" the night of the explosion.
Paul Campbell is on trial at Belfast Crown Court for two offences arising from the bomb attack on the police station in Coalisland on March 26th, 1997.
It is the Crown's case that Campbell was one of two men who launched the attack and who were shot by undercover soldiers trying to flee the scene. Gareth Doris was subsequently convicted and served a 10-year sentence.
Campbell (41) from The Mills in Coalisland has been charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent.
He denies both charges and claims he was in the town centre on March, 26, 1997 to hire a video from Xtravision.
He was called to the witness box on Thursday, where he was questioned by his barrister Orlando Pownell about that Wednesday evening over two decades ago.
Confirming he was 18 at the time, Campbell said as he was standing in the Lineside Quay area when he heard a "massive bang" then "a few seconds later, it was pop, pop, pop."
When Campbell was asked what the "pop" he referred to was, he said "gunfire", and when Mr Pownell asked if he saw anything that he could link to the sound, the defendant replied: "I seen what to me looked like two people who were firing weapons."
The defendant said one had a black beard and the other had fair hair and a moustache. Campbell said he also observed a man he later knew to be Gareth Doris lying on the ground.
Mr Pownell then asked his client: "What was going through your mind?"
Campbell replied: "Seeing the fella with the black beard, the explosion and then a shooting, the first thing that popped into my head was, I thought he was the spitting image of Michael Stone and I thought someone was here on a killing rampage."
And when asked by his barrister "did it ever cross your mind it might be soldiers", Campbell said "never."
He continued: "I said to myself I need to get out of here. I looked around and there was a white car facing out of town."
Campbell said he planned to jump into this car and as he started to run "I felt a burning sensation down the inside of both of my legs".
He said he "temporarily went down on one knee" then ran to the car and "jumped into the rear driver's seat".
The non-jury trial has already heard the car belonged to a priest, and Campbell revealed as he was getting into the car, a second man also jumped in the back seat and told the priest to drive.
Campbell refused to name this man and when asked why, he said "I see where I have ended up. I'm here and I'm totally innocent, and I don't want to shift the focus on to somebody else".
Campbell said got out of the priest's car close to Meenagh Park where his grandmother lived, and that when he got to her house several relatives were there.
When asked by Mr Pownell if he remembered what he said to him, Campbell replied "I went in and told them something major had happened down the town ... there was some sort of explosion and shooting."
Campbell said he then went into the bathroom where he saw the gunshot wound to his groin, and when asked why he didn't go immediately to the nearby hospital in Dungannon, Campbell said: "I believed I would have ended up getting charged with something because they had to justify shooting an unarmed, innocent man."
He continued: "My granny said 'you are going to have to go to hospital, but you are not going anywhere round here'."
Asked if he agreed with her, Campbell said: "She was far older and wiser then me and lived through a lot more of the Troubles than I had, and I respected her opinion."
Campbell said he was then driven across the border and into Co Louth by a female relative, adding "we had family in Dundalk. That's why it was decided to go to Dundalk hospital."
He admitted giving the name "John Murphy" to staff and told them his injury occurred in a motorbike accident.
When Mr Pownell asked Campbell "did you expect them to believe that?", he answered: "I was an 18-year old boy and I had just been in something very serious. Logical thought would not have been at the forefront of my mind back then."
Belfast Telegraph Digital