Belfast Telegraph

RUC station bombing accused 'treated for gunshot in 1997'

Paul Campbell leaving Belfast Crown Court
Paul Campbell leaving Belfast Crown Court

By John Cassidy

Soldiers inside a police station attacked with a blast bomb were warned not to return fire to avoid a "gun battle", a court heard yesterday.

The evidence was given by a police witness at the non-jury trial of Paul Campbell, who is accused of carrying out the attack on Coalisland RUC station over two decades ago.

The 41-year-old, of The Mills, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, has been charged with causing an explosion likely to endanger life, and possessing an improvised explosive device with intent to endanger life, on March 26, 1997.

Campbell, who was 19 at the time, has denied both offences.

It is the prosecution case that Campbell was one of two men who launched the attack, that he was shot by a soldier as he fled from the RUC station, and that he jumped into a priest's car that was parked nearby.

It is also the Crown's case that Campbell's DNA was found in the back seat of the priest's car, which was driven from the scene.

On day three of the trial a police witness said he was one of four officers travelling from Dungannon to Coalisland RUC station to carry out security duties at the heavily fortified base.

The former RUC reservist said that before leaving Dungannon RUC station he received a briefing of a "high threat" in Coalisland.

He was asked by trial judge David McFarland if it was a "general high threat or a specific high threat".

The witness replied: "We always received high threats, but I can't say if it was a specific threat or a general threat."

He outlined to the court that inside the bomb-proof Coalisland police station there were two sangars - one used by the RUC and one for the Army.

It was during a changeover in the RUC sangar between him and another constable that there was a "loud explosion and a big flash" in the vicinity of the station.

Recounting events of that night over 22 years ago, the witness said a series of calls were made to Dungannon headquarters about the attack.

He added that with military personnel in the other sangar he "decided to make sure that the Army didn't start discharging their weapons and return fire or we could have had a gun battle. I was shouting at them to close their windows (in the sangar)".

Under cross-examination from defence counsel Orlando Pownall QC, the witness was asked if he remembered being told that a soldier saw "two young men running into the alleyway at the back of the station each carrying a pot in their hands"?

The witness replied: "No, I don't."

He was also shown a still image from a video camera perched on top of the mast in the police station which captured a man lying on the ground outside the station with a man standing over him.

During further evidence at the trial, the second in command of the police investigation into the bomb attack took the witness stand.

The retired detective chief inspector said that three days after the attack he spoke to a Garda counterpart in Co Louth and asked him to "make enquiries of hospitals in the Republic" of anyone admitted with gunshot wounds.

He said he did this as a result of intelligence he had received about Paul Campbell.

The court heard that RUC CID received information back from the Garda that a man had been admitted to Louth County Hospital by the name of 'John Murphy'.

The former detective said he asked gardai to take a blood sample from 'John Murphy', and on April 1, 1997, Paul Campbell was arrested.

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