The Irishman charged yesterday with the murder of four soldiers in a London bombing more than 30 years ago was detained at Gatwick Airport on his way to a holiday in Greece, it is understood.
John Downey (61), from Ards, Creeslough, Co Donegal, was remanded in custody until tomorrow when he appeared yesterday at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
He is charged with four counts of murder in a Hyde Park car bombing in July 1982 and one charge of intending to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. The crown prosecution service alleges that Mr Downey was responsible for the car bomb which killed members of the Royal Household Cavalry as they travelled from their barracks to Buckingham Palace.
Last night, Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly complained about the "vindictive, unnecessary and unhelpful" decision to arrest and charge Mr Downey, who he said was a party member "and a long-time supporter of the peace process".
Mr Downey had been told by the Northern Ireland Office in 2007 that he was not wanted by the PSNI or any British police force, the Sinn Féin Assembly member claimed.
“Despite travelling to England on many occasions, now six years on he finds himself before the courts on these historic charges,” said Mr Kelly, who served a jail sentence for four bombings in Britain in the early 1970s, including one attack on the Old Bailey.
However, Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kinahan, best man at the wedding of one of the soldiers killed in 1982, said Mr Kelly had demonstrated “a complete lack of understanding of the concept of the rule of law”.
Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds ridiculed Sinn Féin’s complaints saying it has spent “years, if not decades pursuing inquiries into the security forces or any agency of the state in Northern Ireland”.
During an 11-minute court hearing before Judge Quentin Purdy, Mr Downey spoke only to confirm his name and address.
His solicitor Gareth Pierce had urged the judge to ensure his full home address was not given in court because "there are many other lives involved and they have moved on".
Four soldiers were killed in the bombing and scores of police and civilians were injured.
*This article was amended on May 24th to correct a factual error.