bomb hoax | 

Man refused bail in probe into gunpoint hijacking of vehicle driven to Omagh PSNI station

Sean Pearson from Culmore Park, Omagh is accused of possessing gloves, a timer switch, gas cannisters and tape in suspicious circumstances

Sean Pearson

Tanya Fowles

A twenty-nine-year-old man has been remanded in custody relating to an alleged terrorism incident during which a vehicle was hijacked and the driver forced to take it at gunpoint to Omagh PSNI Station.

Sean Pearson from Culmore Park, Omagh is accused of possessing gloves, a timer switch, gas cannisters and tape in suspicious circumstances preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.

Offending is alleged to have occurred on 6 May.

A detective inspector told Dungannon Magistrates Court the charge could be connected.

He explained an injured party had just exited his car at St Mary’s Church when two males approached and stated they were IRA.

One male commented “The timer has already been set”.

A third male appeared and while a firearm was produced, an item was placed in the book of the injured party’s vehicle.

He was then instructed to: “Take it to the f***ing barracks. You have 20 minutes”.

They removed the terrified man’s phone and out of coercion, drove to the PSNI station and made himself known to staff.

A major security operation swung into place and a hoax device was received containing a gas cannister, low grade explosives believed to be from fireworks, a timer switch and adhesive tape.

Enquiries obtained CCTV footage from a Strabane shop which appears to show Pearson purchasing gas cannisters, and a mechanical timer switch paid for by card.

CCTV from another shop in Omagh appears to show Pearson buying adhesive tape, again using his card.

All have been submitted for forensic examination which is awaited however comparison has shown the canisters and switch appear similar to those recovered on the hoax device.

Pearson was arrested, released and rearrested, but made no comment to all questions, however his solicitor said the timer was for his mobile phone as it overheats when being charged.

The tape for use in his plastering business and the canisters were for camping stove.

It was contended all were in the rear of his unlocked vehicle, but when police later searched this it was found to be locked and all tools in connection with his work were intact.

None of the purchased items have been recovered and there was no evidence of a camping stove.

Objecting to bail the detective cited a risk of reoffending pointing out Pearson has a previous terrorist conviction from attending a republican parade in 2018, while wearing a beret, facemask and military fatigues.

He also has a matter under consideration for phoning in bomb hoaxes.

“There is a real risk of witness interference and course of justice,” said the detective.

“A firearm remains outstanding as well as two, potentially three suspects. The injured party was highly traumatised. Huge disruption was caused to the area during this alert. People had to be evacuated from their homes and a Mass had to be cancelled. This was the sixth national security attack in the last six months and just two months after the attempted murder of DCJ John Caldwell.

District Judge Peter Magill remarked, “We are aware of that but let’s keep focused on this defendant.”

“Republican Sinn Fein in the Omagh area issued a statement after the defendant was previously arrested although did not identify him," said the detective.

The defence did not accept the connection to the charge and urged the judge to free Pearson at once.

When this was dismissed, the defence argued there is a presumption of innocence and in favour of bail and should be released with suitable concerns as “He enjoys the support and endorsement of his family.”

But Judge Magill didn’t agree, deeming Pearson “Not a suitable candidate for bail”.

He will appear again by video-link at Omagh Magistrates Court next month.

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