Marine in bomb making case says he faked republican sympathies
Ciaran Maxwell hid mines, ammunition and pipe bombs in the North and England
Ciaran Maxwell, a Royal Marine with links to dissident republicanism. Photograph: PA
A Royal Marine who lived a “dangerous double life” as a terrorist bomb-maker has claimed he faked sympathies for the Irish republican cause because he was “paralysed” with fear, a court has heard.
Ciaran Maxwell (31) stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs – four of which were deployed – in 43 purpose-built hides at eight locations in Northern Ireland and England.
Bomb-making materials were found in barrels and buckets buried in the ground as well as an adapted Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) pass card, a PSNI uniform and a police stab-proof vest.
Maxwell, who is originally from Larne in Co Antrim, faces years in jail after pleading guilty in February to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August 2016, possessing images of bank cards for fraud, and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.
The Old Bailey in London heard he researched targets and discussed plans to attack police stations and officers. But Paul Hynes QC, defending, told the court Maxwell was not ideologically driven and would not have used violence for a cause. He said it was Niall Lehd, who was the “instigator” of a joint venture with Maxwell, who had “no long-lasting republican ideology”.
“[Maxwell] was in effect forced, to use his own words, to pretend to have republican sympathies he did not in fact have,” he said.
“Fear of being in way above his head was effectively what paralysed him from stopping the conduct which brings him before this court.”
The court heard two pipe bombs were deployed after Maxwell’s arrest on August 24th last year and Mr Hynes suggested they may well have had an element of “sending him a message” to do what was expected of him.
Mr Hynes also pointed out that Maxwell’s co-operation with police in leading them to some of his hides “was essentially the cork coming out of the bottle, having lived such a dangerous double life for so long”. He said his client’s “criminal terrorist associates” would now wish him “serious ill”, while the danger extended to his family in Northern Ireland and England.
The court heard Maxwell grew up as a member of a small Catholic community in Larne, a predominantly unionist area, and at 16 suffered a serious attack at the hands of a group of older men.
Maxwell, of Exminster in Devon in the UK, was a serving Royal Marine with 40 Commando based in Taunton at the time of the offences and had been deployed in the US, Cyprus and the UK – but not Northern Ireland – after enlisting in 2010.
He was about to be promoted to corporal before he was discovered and discharged from the marines.
He appeared on Friday via video link from Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes.
Mr Justice Sweeney said he would pass sentence on Monday at noon.