Two men jailed over bid to bomb Londonderry police recruitment event
Two men have been handed jail terms at Laganside Crown Court for attempting to plant a bomb ahead of a PSNI Recruitment event in Londonderry in 2015.
A viable device, made from a fire extinguisher and filled with 1.5kg of explosives, was discovered in the grounds of the Waterfoot Hotel before the event on October 9, 2015.
Earlier this year Darren Poleon, 43, and Brian Walsh, 35, both from Co Meath in the Republic of Ireland, pleaded guilty to offences including possession of explosives with the intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and possession of articles for use in terorism.
Both men received five years in custody and five years on licence for possession of explosives with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property and four years imprisonment for possession of articles for use in terrorism.
The four-year sentence will run concurrently.
Speaking about the sentencing Detective Inspector Gillian Kearney from the PSNI's Serious Crime Branch said: "Their intention was undoubtedly to murder and seriously injure people as well as to deter people from pursuing a career in policing.
"They had no regard for the safety of anyone staying in or visiting this popular hotel. I’m thankful we were able to thwart their efforts as I have no doubt that if the device had exploded people would have been killed or at the very least seriously injured."
The fire-extinguisher explosive device had been placed in the car park of the Derry hotel on Tuesday October 6, and along with the detonating system, was not discovered until October 9.
Poleon and Walsh were initially arrested on Tuesday October 6 by police in the Drumragh Avenue area of Omagh after the car they were in was seen driving eratically.
When searching the car police discovered bolt cutters, walkie-talkies, a toy gun, balaclavas, gloves and two mobile phones.
A Sat-Nav system was also taken from the car for analysis.
The men were arrested on suspicion of being equipped for a burglary, and possessing an imitation firearm with the intent to cause fear of violence.
On Friday October 9, police attended security alerts at numerous locations across Northern Ireland, including at the Waterfoot Hotel, the Millfield Campus of Belfast Metropolitan College and teh Strule Arts Centre in Omagh - all of which were holding police recruitment events.
During the searches the device at the Waterfoot Hotel was recovered.
"During our enquiries we analysed the Sat Nav system recovered from the car Poleon and Walsh had been travelling in," said DI Kearney.
"This provided a link between the car and the three recruitment venues. The car was found to have travelled from Co. Meath to the Waterfoot Hotel on October 6, when officers believe the device was left in the grounds of the hotel, before travelling onwards to the Strule Civic Centre in Omagh were they were arrested later that night.
"Further evidence was also gathered to suggest Poleon had made a reservation to stay at the Waterfoot Hotel on Friday October 9, when police believe an attempt would have been made to move the device inside the hotel building from its position in the grounds."
The two men were arrested under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act on December 2, 2015 and were charged on the same day.
Both changed initial pleads of not guilty to guilty.
"I am pleased that the threat posed by these two dangerous individuals has been removed and they are now in prison," DI Kearney added.
"This investigation highlights the determination of our officers to keep people safe and we would ask communities to help us by providing police with any information they have about terrorist or criminal activity."
Belfast Telegraph Digital