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Dissident internal security debrief found hidden in perfume bottle - handwriting matched with PIP application, court hears

'Shortbread' and 'Rice Krispies' used as code words

Fionnuala Perry
Fionnuala Perry

by John Toner, Sunday Life

A convicted former IRA hijacker hid secret dissident terror notes in a perfume box, a court has been told.

Handwriting on the notes matched a benefits application made by west Belfast woman Fionnuala Perry, police claimed in an appearance at Belfast Magistrates' Court.

Perry, 61, from west Belfast, was charged with two counts of collecting information useful to terrorists between September 2015 and February 2018.

Police said the notes were a mixture of plain language and coded words including shortbread and Rice Krispies.

The PSNI say they can link Perry, a senior member of the dissident republican party Saoradh, to the notes after comparing them to her handwriting on a Personal Independence Payments (PIP) application form submitted to the government in 2017.

The court heard a raid was carried out at her address in the Clonard area of west Belfast in February 2018 which uncovered what they referred to as a “security debrief” following police recovery of munitions in Ballymurphy in 2015.

Cigarette papers and tracing paper were recovered from a perfume box which contained handwritten notes relating to police activity in the area which were never released to the press or public, the court heard.

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The notes are said to contain a mixture of plain language and code including the phrases Luger, 9mm auto, 9mm 100, Rice Krispies and shortbread.

Police say the notes relate to a raid carried out in Ballymurphy in September 2015 in which over half a kilogram of Semtex, two handguns, more than 200 rounds of ammunition and two detonators were recovered.

The papers were sent for handwriting analysis months later when the PSNI were provided with a copy of Mrs Perry’s 2017 application for PIP.

Officers told the court a handwriting expert had compared the two and, in their opinion, there was “strong support” for a connection between them.

In the notes officers also said there was reference to individuals who had been spoken to by officers in relation to the 2015 raid whose details had never publicly been released.

The court heard the PSNI were “of the opinion” the notes formed part of an internal security review carried out by a paramilitary organisation and objected to bail on the grounds Mrs Perry may commit further offences.

However, lawyers acting on behalf of Fionnuala Perry, often referred to as Nuala, successfully applied for bail on behalf of their client under stringent bail terms.

Granting her bail judge Bernie Kelly said: “Mrs Perry this is a fine balancing exercise between these charges and your rights enshrined by legal conventions. I am going to release you under strict conditions.”

The rules of her bail include not having access to any internet enabled communications device, a night time curfew and a requirement to sign on once a week at Musgrave Police Station. She was also released on her own bail of £500 and a cash surety of £2,000.

The Public Prosecution Service immediately lodged an appeal against the granting of bail and Mrs Perry was held in custody as a result pending a hearing at the appeal court.

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