Man found guilty of possession of explosives in Dublin hotel

Finnstown House Hotel
Finnstown House Hotel

A Northern Irish man has been found guilty by the Special Criminal Court of possessing an explosive substance.

The court previously heard evidence from members of the Special Detective Unit that the convicted man, Samuel Devlin (55), was "an engineer for the IRA" and a "bomb-maker". 

Devlin, with an address at Golf Suite, Finnstown House Hotel, Lucan, Co Dublin had denied the unlawful possession of the explosive substance, PETN, at the same address on May 11, 2014.

During the trial, the three-judge, non-jury court heard that Devlin was residing in a chalet adjacent to the Finnstown House Hotel at the time of the offence.  

A booking had been made for a long stay at the chalet from March 31st, 2014, in the name of Joe Murphy. The court heard that Devlin occupied the chalet and that a "fictitious identity" was used to make the booking. 

Detective Inspector William Hanrahan, of the Special Detective Unit (SDU), gave evidence that, on the day of the offence, his belief was that Devlin was at the premises at the Finnstown House Hotel and that he had explosives in his possession. 

His concern was that Devlin was a bomb-maker.  

Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce, also of the SDU, gave evidence that he believed Devlin was involved with a car bomb. 
The court heard evidence that a car-bomb had been found on the grounds of the hotel. 

The detective was part of a team which entered the Golf Suite chalet on the hotel's grounds, where he saw a number of items which he believed were being used for the construction of improvised explosive devices.

During cross-examination, the detective told defence counsel Bernard Condon SC, "There was a car-bomb for the first time in sixteen years in Dublin city. I was aware Samuel Devlin was in that compound."

He said he believed Devlin was "an engineer for the IRA, a bomb-maker".

During the search of the chalet, detectives found 21 metres of detonator cord wrapped in a towel inside a laptop case, as well as a laptop and a plug. 

One of the three rolls of cord had attached to it a label which read "EXPLOS" with the rest torn off. 

Also found in the room were an Irish passport, a Social Welfare Card and a Social Welfare receipt, all bearing the name Samuel Devlin.

Delivering judgement today, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said that the label on the detonator cord "clearly referred to explosive or explosives".

Examination of the detonator cord revealed an explosive substance, PETN, within the cord's core. 

Forensic evidence connecting Devlin to the laptop and plug was also presented to the court. 

Detective Garda Niall Lennon, of the Garda Technical Bureau's fingerprint section, told prosecuting counsel Tara Burns SC that he compared fingerprints found on the laptop to a set taken from Devlin. 

There was "no doubt" the fingerprints matched.  

Mr Justice Butler said that for the purpose of judgement the court was rejecting two parts of the prosecution case. 

The court rejected evidence of Devlin's interviews with gardaí, in respect of which inferences were sought to be invoked, he said.  

While interviewed, Devlin had denied being in possession or control of explosives.

The court also rejected evidence in relation to the placing of a plastic bag in a bin. 

The evidence was from a member of the National Surveillance Unit (NSU), who cannot be named for legal reasons. 

He told the court that on May 9th, 2014, he observed Devlin leave Finnstown House Hotel and dispose of a plastic bag in a public litter bin. 

The detective then retrieved the plastic bag and a copy of the Irish News newspaper from the bin.

Gardaí searched the bag and found plastic tubing, which had been cut lengthways, and plastic fibres. 

The exhibits were the remains of detonator cord, with the PETN removed, and were similar to the cord found in the hotel room, the court heard. 

Referring to the evidence of the NSU detective, Mr Justice Butler said that of concern to the court was the fact that the witness "described the bag as being pale yellow while the evidence in relation thereto was that it was originally white and that the yellow pigmentation was as a result of forensic examination."

"There was both mistaken and conflicting evidence in relation to this," Mr Justice Butler said.  

The court accepted that Devlin was in possession of the PETN found within the detonator cord in the laptop case. 

Mr Justice Butler said one of the cords contained an identifying label which could "leave nobody under any doubt that it said explosive". 

The court, he said, was "satisfied beyond doubt that the accused could not but have been aware that what he possessed is what it was, namely an explosive substance".

Devlin was remanded in custody, until April 6th, when he will be sentenced. 
By Daniel Hickey