Two Meath men sentenced for planting bomb in Derry car park

Device left at hotel ahead of PSNI event leads to 10-year sentences for terrorist offences

During sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller  said the device had the potential to cause “severe physical injury or death”. Photograph: Google Street View

During sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller said the device had the potential to cause “severe physical injury or death”. Photograph: Google Street View

 

Two Co Meath men who planted a bomb in the car park of a hotel in Derry ahead of a PSNI recruitment event were given a ten-year sentence on Thursday.

Brian Walsh and Darren Poleon left a “blast bomb” in shrubbery behind a disabled-parking sign, some 20m (65ft) from the lobby of the Waterfoot Hotel, in October, 2015.

During Thursday’s sentencing at Belfast Crown Court, Judge Geoffrey Miller said that, while the remote-controlled device was located and made safe ahead of the police event, it nonetheless had the potential to cause “severe physical injury or death . . . to members of the PSNI and others attending the hotel.”

Poleon (43) from Lightown in Kells and Brian Walsh (35) from Drumree in Dunshaughlin were each given a ten-year sentence for terrorist offences. They were told by the judge that they will spend five years in jail, with the remainder on licence upon their release.

Despite initial denials, both men pleaded guilty to possessing an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on October 6th, 2015, and possessing articles for use in terrorism, on the same date.

Potentially lethal device

The judge said the improvised explosive device was a modified fire extinguisher packed with 1kg of explosives and spoke of the pair’s intention to deploy the “potentially lethal device”.

The case against Poleon and Walsh was heard earlier this week. Prosecutor Terence Mooney said they came to the attention of police in Omagh after a car driven by Poleon provoked suspicion in the town on the evening of October 6th, 2015.

The pair appeared nervous and told police they both lived in the Republic and had been in the North to buy a car engine. The vehicle was searched and a backpack containing a balaclava and boltcutters was found. They initially denied knowing anything about it, before Walsh claimed it was his.

Other items, including a two-way radio and a satnav system, were found during the search.

The pair were arrested on suspicion of being equipped for burglary, released on bail and ordered to return from the Republic to Omagh to honour their bail in December, 2015. It was at this point that they were arrested under the Terrorism Act.

Satnav evidence

The data from the satnav indicated the car left Poleon’s house on the morning of October 6th, that it stopped at a supermarket in Cavan where the pair were recorded on CCTV buying the backpack. The car arrived close to the hotel in Derry at 9.06pm. The satnav was then turned off for 30 minutes before the power was reconnected.

Mr Mooney said: “This is consistent with the bomb being placed in the car park by the defendants at that time.” He said other data on the satnav showed that a vehicle had been driven to two other venues – one in Belfast and one in Omagh – due to host PSNI information events.

He said this indicated the device left in Derry was “part of a terrorist campaign carried out in Northern Ireland. a dangerous terrorist campaign” He also said images and texts on men’s phones showed they “at least supported the aims of a terrorist organisation.”

The court heard the information on the phones linked them to “people associated with Irish Republicanism”, and included an image of a punishment shooting accompanied by the words “bringing back old school” and “dealers beware”.

Passing sentence, the judge told Poleon and Walsh that he was reducing it from 13 years to ten for a number of reasons, including their guilty pleas, which saved the need for a costly trial, and the fact they crossed the Border in December 2015 and returned to Omagh to answer their bail.