Belfast Telegraph

Teenage couple 'made bombs for dissident republicans' at Armagh home, court hears

A teenage couple were allegedly involved in making explosives for dissident republicans at their south Armagh home, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors claimed an industrial-scale bread grinder discovered in the bungalow had been used to process large quantities of ammonium nitrate sugar for bombs.

A timer power unit found in an upstairs wardrobe could also have been planted and left for days and then activated by mobile phone, a judge was told.

Details emerged as 18-year-old Orla O'Hanlon mounted an application for bail.

Along with her 19-year-old partner Keith McConnan, she is charged with making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life or property.

The couple were arrested following police searches of their home on Tievcrom Road, Forkhill last month.

A 3ft-tall grinder found inside was capable of producing 120kg of breadcrumbs an hour and had no domestic use, according to the prosecution.

Tests carried out on white power discovered in and around the appliance confirmed it to be ammonium nitrate, similar to that used in home-made explosives.

Traces of the same substance were detected in a bin and vacuum cleaner.

Prosecution counsel claimed an attempt had been made to clean and cover-up what had been going on.

"Police believe a large quantity of ammonium nitrate sugar has already been procured. That wasn't found on the premises," he said.

Latex gloves and £1,000 in cash were seized in the operation.

In a bedroom wardrobe police found a bag containing a portable power pack and a timer power unit with a mobile phone and battery taped to it.

"This device could be left for a number of days and could then have been activated by phoning the mobile," the prosecution lawyer said.

Documents relating to an alleged 30,000 euro money transfer made by O'Hanlon's co-accused were uncovered as well.

During police questioning she claimed to have used the grinder once to make oats.

All knowledge of the equipment found in the wardrobe was denied.

Opposing bail based on the risk flight and interference with witnesses, the prosecution said: "Police believe this activity is linked to dissident republicans."

O'Hanlon and McConnan had only moved into the bungalow together weeks before the raid, the court heard.

Defence counsel Taylor Campbell argued that anyone involved in a terrorist cell would not have used their own home.

He also pointed out that O'Hanlon's mother or father called at the property every other day.

"The notion that this house was ever going to be turned into something ongoing for the type of deadly activity the police suspect is just out of the question," Mr Campbell said.

"They (her parents) were regular visitors and they had been turning up unannounced."

Mr Justice Burgess was told fingerprint tests on the components inside the bag have yet to be completed.

Directing that results should be obtained within four weeks, he adjourned the bail application until then.

The judge said: "If the forensics are entirely clear I will regard that as a change of circumstances."

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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