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Belfast man denies ‘bomb parts’ charge as police investigate possible dissident link

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Lisburn Magistrates Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Lisburn Magistrates Court (Niall Carson/PA)

Lisburn Magistrates Court (Niall Carson/PA)

A Belfast man appeared in court on Saturday accused of having component parts of a pipebomb police found nine months ago.

Appearing at Lisburn Magistrates Court via videolink from police custody, 38-year-old Patrick McCann was charged with having an explosive substance, namely green lamel propellant, under suspicious circumstances on September 29 last year.

A detective constable said he believed he could connect McCann to the charge and that police were objecting to bail over concerns that he would commit further offences “and public safety” given the nature of the charge.

The court heard how the charge arose when during a search of McCann’s home at Glenbawn Avenue in Dunmurry, officers discovered two lengths of metal piping that had their caps welded on.

“ATO (Army Technical Officers) were called to deal with the explosives,” the detective told the court.

He added that a forensic report from a explosives expert, which had been received in the last few days, “opined that these were partially constructed pipebombs” with green lamel propellant which is usually found inside shotgun cartridges.

At the time of the initial search, cops also found a quantity of fireworks as well as tennis balls which had been cut up and filled with firework composition.

And the court heard that when officers arrested McCann on Friday, more fireworks were found.

The officer said that when McCann was first questioned last September, he claimed the tennis balls had been modified “to make larger bangers” and during further interviews on Friday, “he denied that he was making pipebombs but would not give any further explanation.”

The said given the initial and recent finds, “another line of enquiry for the police would be links to possible dissident republican groupings as its no secret that pipe bombs have been used by these groupings to attack police and rival gangs.”

Defence lawyer Ciaran Toner said father-of-seven McCann had given “fairly candid and detailed accounts” of how he made the tennis ball bangers which he was letting off in wooded areas.

“He made it clear at interview that he has absolutely no connections with any grouping,” said the lawyer.

He said that given the charge, “there’s an assumption being made that because it’s an explosives charge, in a certain part of the city, there has to be a link but there’s nothing to suggest that’s the case.”

Mr Toner submitted that as police had been content to free McCann on police bail last September with no offences committed since then, the defendant could be freed on bail.

But District Judge Amanada Brady said: “I’m going to refuse bail on the basis of the risk of reoffending because when police went back to his house recently, he had another set of fireworks.”

McCann’s case was adjourned to June 15.

Belfast Telegraph