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Text that jailed key member of police base bomb gang

A dissident republican who threatened to shoot a taxi driver dead unless he drove a bomb to a police station was caught after he sent a text message asking the bomber to hurry up and deliver the explosives, a court has heard.

Philip O'Donnell was jailed for 13 years yesterday after playing an “active” role in the bomb attack on Strand Road police station in Londonderry on August 3, 2010.

O'Donnell pleaded guilty to causing the explosion, hijacking the taxi the bomb was transported in, falsely imprisoning the taxi driver, and membership of the outlawed Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) terror group.

The 44-year-old married father-of-four, from Baldrick Crescent in the city, also admitted two further counts of attempted hijacking. O'Donnell will spend half his sentence in jail and half on licence.

Belfast Crown Court judge Mr Justice Burgess warned the self-confessed terrorist that had he been a main player, he would have faced a jail sentence in excess of 20 years.

“Given the nature of these offences and the terror and threat to life inherent in this attack, this dissident group showed itself only too willing to resort to violence in pursuit of its aims and in doing so resorted to this highly dangerous act of causing an explosion of this magnitude,” he said.

He added that anyone involved in such attacks “should know that heavy periods of imprisonment will be imposed”.

The lawyer said such was the intensity of the explosion, an Army Ammunition Technical Officer could find no trace of the bomb itself but estimated that it had contained between 50kg to 100kg of high explosives.

Prosecutor Terence Mooney QC said it was the Crown view that O'Donnell had “played an active and significant role in the plan” to attack the police station, given how he had made the calls to lure the taxi drivers and issued the bomb warning.

“Although it is accepted that the evidence indicates that he aided and abetted the principals to the offence, nevertheless his role as disclosed by the evidence was important and indicates that he knew the principal elements of the attack.”

Jailing O'Donnell, Mr Justice Burgess said while there was no victim impact report on the driver who had to transport the bomb, he was in no doubt “this would have been a traumatic experience”.

He said O'Donnell had “willingly involved himself” in the terrorist attack.

Belfast Telegraph