Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Innocent Belfast man at centre of New IRA weapons find breaks his silence

AK-47s found at home used in two previous murder bids on police

Kevin O'Reilly
Kevin O'Reilly

By Ciaran Barnes, Sunday Life.

THE innocent man whose gas-fired boiler house was used by dim-witted New IRA members to store a deadly weapons haul says he is living in fear.

In his only interview, Kevin 'Kebo' O'Reilly told Sunday Life of how he had been arrested by anti-terror cops but freed after they quickly realised he had no connection to the arms.

Speaking from the doorstep of his west Belfast home where the dissident rifles and pipe bombs were found, the 35-year-old said: "My head is all over the place.

"I've never been in trouble with the cops in my life. I've never committed a crime, I don't even have a criminal record."

Last Monday night the New IRA stashed two AK-47s, two sawn-off shotguns, a rifle fitted with a silencer, three pipe bombs and 100 rounds of ammo on top of a boiler at the rear of Mr O'Reilly's Rodney Drive home.

They were later discovered after heat from the system set off the bullets.

They ricocheted around the outhouse causing a blaze to which firefighters were called.

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Police later said Mr O'Reilly had been "exploited" by the New IRA, a claim he was reluctant to expand upon yesterday.

He added: "The cops arrested me and took me away, but I wasn't mistreated or anything.

"I was let go because they realised I had done nothing wrong."

Describing the past week as a "nightmare", Mr O'Reilly told Sunday Life: "It's been very frightening. I just want to get on with my life. Anyone who you speak to will tell you I've nothing to do with any of this s***."

Mr O'Reilly's neighbours reported him running up Rodney Drive in a state of panic last Wednesday night shouting, "Help, my house is on fire".

They contacted firefighters who discovered the weapons haul and called in the bomb squad.

The arms found at the back of Mr O'Reilly's home have put a huge dent in the arsenal of the New IRA, which has had five AK-47s seized by the PSNI in recent years.

In 2013 the group smuggled six of the rifles into Belfast, with only one now still under its control.

Cops first recovered two of the AK-47s following a botched attack on a police patrol passing the Ardoyne area of north Belfast. The gunmen dropped the weapons after opening fire on a PSNI Landrover.

Last December a third AK-47 was found in bushes at the car park of Belfast Zoo on the Antrim Road. Police believe it was to be used to kill officers performing a weekly check at the disused Glengormley PSNI station which is nearby.

Another two of the New IRA's AK-47s have now been found after the boiler house fire at Kevin O'Reilly's home last Wednesday.

Detectives believe the guns, bombs and ammo were moved to the outbuilding around 9:30pm last Monday night. They are keen to speak to anyone who witnessed suspicious activity in an alleyway at the rear of the property.

Republican sources last night pointed the finger at a prominent dissident republican who lives nearby in the St James' area as the man who hid the weapons in the boiler house.

Security insiders believe the guns were not to be used in an imminent attack because of the large scale of the find.

They reckon that dissidents suspected the previous location of the arms, thought to be in the Bog Meadows nature reserve, had been disturbed and they were moved to Rodney Drive as a precaution.

A senior detective told Sunday Life: "If there had been just two AK-47s found it would be a good indicator that an attack was imminent.

"But this was an entire weapons haul, which probably accounts for most of the New IRA's arms in Belfast."

According to both republican and security sources, the New IRA in Belfast is led by ex-Provo prisoner Risteard O'Murchu (Richard Murphy, below), who is a former member of the national executive of its Saoradh political wing.

Two months ago he complained in the media about how he and his 14-year-old son were stopped and searched by cops under the Terrorism Act.

O'Murchu replaced the New IRA's previous Belfast leader when he was charged with offences and bailed wearing an electronic tag that monitors his movements.

The AK-47s found by police in Rodney Drive had been used in two previous murder bids.

The first was in November 2015 when a gunman fired on an unmarked PSNI patrol car on Rosnareen Avenue in west Belfast.

The second attack in January 2017 resulted in a police officer being shot three times in the arm.

The New IRA opened up on him as he used a service station on the Crumlin Road, with stray bullets narrowly missing children and striking sweetie jars.

The senior cop investigating last Wednesday's weapons find, detective superintendent John McVea, said: "It beggars belief that anyone would store items as volatile as bombs and bullets in a hot environment.

"This is simply reckless, it is stupid and it shows total disregard for the safety of local residents.

"Anyone with an ounce of sense would have known that live ammunition and pipe bombs mixed with heat is a recipe for carnage."

Mr McVea revealed the occupant of the house - Mr O'Reilly - who he did not name, was unaware of what had been placed on top of his boiler and had been "exploited" by the New IRA.

The detective explained that a neighbour first reported the fire, with the occupant of the house then also calling the emergency services to alert them to the blaze.

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