Two men found guilty of having 167kg of explosives in car

Judge said it was ‘totally incredible’ the pair were unaware of detonators ‘protruding’ under seat

A man's denial that he knew anything about 167kg of explosives found inside his "heavily laden" car — including detonators sticking out from the passenger seat — has been found to be "totally incredible" by the Special Criminal Court.

Armed gardaí found four bags of explosives in the boot of a black Skoda Fabia car and 18 detonators under the front passenger seat when they stopped the vehicle on the Naas Road, the court has heard.

Mr Justice Tony Hunt said on Friday the facts of the case proved that both men were "in joint control" over the substances found in the car and that they were guilty of having the explosives.

John Roche (55), of Bridgefoot Street, Dublin 8 and John Brock (46), with an address at Cushlawn Park, Tallaght, Dublin 24 had both pleaded not guilty to possession of 57kg of homemade explosives, consisting of ammonium nitrate fuel mix, and thirty-eight 2.5kg rolls of Kemegel industrial explosives at Naas Road, Dublin 12 on April 13th 2016.


Delivering judgment on Friday, Mr Justice Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Ann Ryan, said that Roche had travelled from his home in the inner city to Behans Quarry on Windmillhill in Rathcoole, Co Dublin "for a specific purpose".

“That was not to consume and purchase fast food as he asserted to gardaí but to travel to the quarry for the purpose of collecting materials and he was apprehended on his return,” said Mr Justice Hunt.

The Skoda car which Roche was driving on the evening was observed by gardaí to be “heavily laden” with a large quantity of explosive materials, which are typically used in a quarry, said the judge.

No one driving such a small car would be unaware of the weight of over 23 stone of explosives as well as “openly visible” detonators under the front-passenger seat, he outlined. As driver and owner of the car, Roche had full control and awareness of its contents, he added.

Detective Sergeant Peter Whelan gave evidence in the trial that he could see between 15 and 20 detonators “sticking out” from underneath the front passenger seat of the car when he stopped it on the Naas Road on April 13th. Four heavy duty plastic bags were in the boot of the car and two of these bags contained a powder mix which looked like homemade explosives, he said.

Mr Justice Hunt said Roche’s denial that he was not at the quarry or knew what was in the car that evening were “totally incredible”. The substances were possessed for the purpose of an unlawful organisation, he indicated.

Roche told gardaí in his interviews that he knew nothing about the 167kg of explosives which were found in his car.

In conclusion, Mr Justice Hunt said that the body of evidence against Roche was “sufficient” to establish his guilt and no further corroboration such as the “untruthful and misleading” answers he had provided at interview were needed to establish a guilty verdict.

In relation to Brock, the court was satisfied that his meeting with Roche in Rathcoole was not “a random coincidence” but prearranged for the purpose of moving a very significant quantity of explosives, he said. As a front-seat passenger in a relatively small car, it was not reasonably possible that Brock was unaware of the “bulky load” and the detonators “protruding” from under his seat, explained the judge.

Mr Justice Hunt said that the evidence against Brock was “more than sufficient” to also establish his guilt.

The convicted men were remanded in custody until Monday, when they will be sentenced.

During the men's trial, three members of the National Surveillance Unit (NSU) testified that they saw both defendants in the Skoda car at the gates of Behans Quarry, minutes before they were observed on the N7.

Detective Sergeant Peter Whelan said that he had received information that members of the IRA may be in possession of explosives on the evening in question. As a result, he and his colleague Detective Garda William Skelly stopped a black Skoda Fabia car at a junction on the Naas Road at 7pm, the court heard.

Closing the prosecution case last week, Anne-Marie Lawlor SC said that the two men were acting in concert with one another when they retrieved and transported 167kg of explosives in a car. She outlined that the offence is contrary to section 9 of the Explosive Substances Act 1883, which states that an explosive substance shall be deemed to include any materials used or intended to be used for making an explosive substance.