Two in court over bid to murder PSNI officer in Belfast

Christine Connor and Stuart Downes charged over pipe bomb attack on police car

Christine Connor (29) and Stuart Downes (30) appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on a number of charges, including possession of explosives with intent and the preparation of terrorist acts. File photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

Christine Connor (29) and Stuart Downes (30) appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on a number of charges, including possession of explosives with intent and the preparation of terrorist acts. File photograph: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

 

A man and woman appeared in court on Monday in connection with a murder bid on a police officer in the Ballysillan area of Belfast.

Christine Connor (29) and Stuart Downes (30) appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court on a number of charges including possession of explosives with intent and the preparation of terrorist acts.

The charges relate to an incident in north Belfast in May 2013 when pipe bombs were thrown at a police car.

Ms Connor, whose Belfast address cannot be published due to an existing reporting restriction, refused to stand when she was brought into the dock. She also refused to answer when she was asked to confirm her name, refused to stand when the six charges against her were read out and refused to enter pleas to the charged levelled against her.

Mr Downes, from Ryton Close in Shrewsbury, travelled from England to attend Monday’s hearing.

Both Ms Connor and Mr Downes were charged with two counts of possessing explosives with intent to endanger life on May 16th, 2013.

Police constable

The pair were also jointly charged with attempting to murder a police constable on May 28th, 2013, along with two charges of causing an explosion likely to endanger life on the same date.

Mr Connor faces a sixth count of the preparation of terrorist acts in Belfast on dates between February 1st and May 30th, 2013 - namely ‘the acquisition and sharing of information, materials and knowledge about explosives and explosive devices’ under the Terrorism Act 2006.

Mr Downes has also been charged with the preparation of terrorist acts in the Shropshire on dates between February 1st and June 2nd, 2013 - namely the ‘acquisition and sharing of information, materials and knowledge about explosives and explosive devices.

When each of the six charges were put to the pair, Ms Connor refused to answer while Mr Downes replied “not guilty”.

‘Exercising entitlement’

When questioned about Ms Connor’s silence, her barrister Martin O’Rourke QC said she was “exercising her entitlement” and invited the court to “treat the defendant’s lack of response as a not guilty plea.”

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland was told a trial is expected to last around two months. The judge agreed to review the case again at the end of the month, and at this stage no date for a trial has yet been fixed.

While Mr Downes was released on continuing bail, Ms Connor was remanded back into custody, where she has been since her arrest in 2013.