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bail refused Man (52) appears in court charged with terrorism offences linked to New IRA

Items uncovered in the home of Kieran McCool, 52, could be “correlated” to bomb and mortar finds in Strabane, Derry and Belfast, the court heard.

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Kieran McCool

Kieran McCool

Kieran McCool

A Derry taxi driver accused of terrorist offences is an alleged bomb maker for the New IRA, a court heard.

Giving evidence to Belfast Magistrates Court, Detective Chief Inspector claimed that “innocuous” items uncovered in the home 52-year-old Kieran George McCool could be “correlated” to bomb and mortar finds in Strabane, Derry and Belfast.

Confirming that during numerous stop and search incidents that McCool made comments such as “things going bang” and “you can get out of prison but you can’t get out of a body bag,” the senior detective claimed that the items seized and traces of explosive substance PETN being found in McCool’s car and on black industrial gloves, “we say, do show a Modus Operandi or propensity by the defendant in his construction of Improvised Explosive Devices.”

Appearing by videolink from police custody married father-of-four McCool, from Ballymagowan Gardens in Derry, was charged with three terrorist offences alleged to have been committed on dates unknown between 31 December 2016 and 4 December 2020.

Count one - possessing articles for use in terrorism, namely black gloves, and that he possessed them “for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.”

Count two - possessing explosives with intent to endanger life or case serious injury to property, namely a timer power unit, six kitchen timer vials containing black powder, electrical connectors, insulation tape, timer switches, reels of electrical wiring and a quantity of components.

Count three - preparation of terrorist acts in that with the intention of committing terrorist acts of assisting another to commit acts of terrorism, McCool “engaged in conduct in preparation for giving effect to your intention, that he was engaged in acquiring or possessing explosives substances and components.”

The DCI told prosecuting counsel David Russell he believed he could connect McCool to each of the charges, confirming that police were objecting to bail due to fears about the commission of further offences and the risk of flight.

The court heard that traces PETN, “a highly explosive substance often found on detonator cord” and used in Cemtex, was found on the backseat of McCool’s car in January 2017 while the black industrial gloves were seized from his home in December 2017.

Again, there were traces of PETN on the gloves along with a DNA profile attributable to McCool, said the detective adding that more recently, in January 2019, officers seized a Motorola mobile phone which had data saved on it under four categories - “explosives, firearms, electrics and foreign conflicts.”

His DNA, the court heard, was also uncovered on a reel of electric cable.

DCI Hamlin told Mr Russell there was also evidence on the phone internet history it had been used to research terms such as “40 mm grenades” and “impact grenades.”

He also claimed there was “correlation” between items seized from McCool’s home over the years and items uncovered in a search operation at a property in Ederowen Park home on December 13 2017.

In that search, officers uncovered modified 50 calibre round of ammunition and other items such as egg timers, electronic timer units, metal sweetie tins and a Njnjago Tupperware box were found in a cubby-hole in the kitchen of the property and while Gary McDaid (42) was prosecuted, he was later acquitted after his trial in May 2019.

McCool was arrested as part of Operation Ledging, a discrete, stand-alone strand of Operation Arbacia, an investigation into the activities of the New IRA which has resulted in ten people being charged after a surveillance operation of a meeting of the proscribed organisations executive council which had been infiltrated by MI5 agent Denis McFadden.

The court heard that McCool has alleged associations with four fellow Derry men facing terrorist charges and that he attended a protest outside HMP Maghaberry over a defendants hunger strike and the DCI said police feared McCool could use a criminal network in order to flee the country.

Under cross examination from defence counsel Joe Brolly, DCI Hamlin agreed that McCool had been arrested and questioned in December 2018 but “released unconditionally.”

“This is all ancient history,” declared the lawyer who labelled the evidence against McCool as “flimsy, untenable.....doomed to fail,” recounting how many of the seized items were “widely available” in shops in Derry while the egg timers were the “best selling” egg timers on Amazon.

PETN submitted Mr Brolly, was generally commonly found on a multiplicity of surfaces for entirely innocent reasons, highlighting that despite it being found in McCool’s car, the vehicle had been returned to him and has since been sold.

The lawyer submitted that with family ties in Derry, McCool doesn’t have a passport and hasn’t left the country in 12 years so he was not a flight risk, further arguing that his record did not show a propensity to commit offences.

Refusing bail however, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said “I’m concerned about the flight risk” and remanding McCool into custody, adjourned the case to Derry Magistrates Court on 15 April.

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