Christine Connor found guilty of two counts of attempted murder

Christine Connor
Christine Connor found guilty of attempted murder. Image copyrightPACEMAKER
A judge has found Christine Connor guilty of attempting to kill a police officer after luring him and a colleague with hoax phone calls.

At Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday the 35-year-old was convicted of four offences, including two counts of causing an explosion.

The charges relate to two incidents in north Belfast in May 2013.

The judge remanded Connor in custody and said sentencing will take place on 20 August.

The court previously heard that Connor made bogus 999 calls to police on two separate occasions.

Evidence tagsImage copyrightPACEMAKER
Image captionConnor was linked to the charges with DNA from clothing. 

In the first incident on 16 May, Connor made a trial run and threw a pipe bomb on the Ligoniel Road.

Later, on 28 May, she lured police to the Crumlin Road before attacking them from an alleyway with two pipe bombs.

In the second hoax call Connor tearfully claimed her name was Gemma and she was the victim of domestic abuse.

Police attended a house on the Crumlin Road, and as one officer was knocking the front door, a pipe bomb was thrown at another officer from a nearby alleyway.

As he tried to evade the explosion, the officer tripped on a kerb and as he lay prone, a second pipe bomb was thrown onto the road.

‘Evasive and argumentative’

Connor was first convicted in 2017 and jailed for 16 years, but was released in December 2018 after appeal judges overturned her conviction and ordered a retrial.

Connor, whose address is subject to a reporting restriction, denied the offences.

She was found guilty of one count of attempted murder, one count of preparation of terrorist acts and two counts of causing explosion likely to endanger life.

Connor was linked to the charges with DNA evidence from clothing as well as mobile phone evidence and CCTV.

The judge said the prosecution’s case was built on a “combination of circumstantial, physical and forensic evidence” and that he was satisfied that Connor has searched online for how to make pipe bombs.

He ruled that she was “clearly involved in the planning, making and deployment of the pipe bombs,” and that her intention was to kill the police officer.

Connor stood trial in a non-jury hearing at the end of 2019.

Giving his ruling on Wednesday, the judge said that having had “the benefit of seeing and hearing the defendant give evidence and be cross-examined…I found her evasive, argumentative and, when it suited her, refused to answer questions.”

A woman has described as “ridiculous” an allegation that she transported pipe bombs in a supermarket bag just prior to an attack on police.

Christine Connor, 34, whose address is subject to a reporting restriction, is on trial before Belfast Crown Court.

She denies six charges arising from two incidents in the north of the city in May 2013.

The first occurred on 16 May, with the second taking place on 28 May.

Ms Connor, who was called to the witness box on Tuesday, has been charged with, and denies, two counts of possessing explosives with intent, two counts of causing an explosion with intent to endanger life, attempting to murder a police constable and the preparation of terrorist acts.

Under questioning from her barrister, Tim Moloney QC, Ms Connor spoke of her republican background and her involvement with the Republican Network for Unity (RNU).

When questioned about the two incidents in north Belfast, Connor admitted she was out for an early morning walk in the area at the time of the second incident, but denied involvement in both.

Mr Moloney asked his client about her education, family background and employment history.

She was then asked whether republican politics was an important part of her upbringing, to which she said “yes, very much so”.

Ms Connor said that around late 2012 and early 2013, she was actively involved with RNU which she described as “a political organisation, not an armed group”.

Ms Connor said she and other members took part in protests, pickets and camp outs “to highlight the plight of republican prisoners”, with one such protest taking place outside the Alliance Party headquarters in south Belfast as at that time the party’s David Ford was justice minister.

She was asked about former co-accused Stuart Downes, who was charged with offences linked to the incident.

Downes, who the Crown say assisted Ms Connor by purchasing component parts for the pipe bombs and ensuring they were delivered to Northern Ireland, died in June 2016.

Ms Connor denied communicating with Mr Downes and when she was asked if she ever pretended to be Swedish model Sanne Andersson, she replied “no”.

Mr Moloney then questioned his client about movie clips – one of which was found on Mr Downes’ phone and another on a laptop found in a mattress in her bedroom.

It is the Crown’s case that one of the clips is Ms Connor conducting a “dry-run” of the route she planned to take before launching the first pipe bomb attack on 16 May.

Laganside Courts complex
Laganside Courts in Belfast
Connor was convicted at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday

Connor was charged alongside Stuart Downes from Shrewsbury.

The 31-year old was subsequently granted bail and was found dead in woodland near his home in June 2016.

The judge said that between February and May 2013 “they researched pipe bombs, with Downes purchasing component parts and ensuring they were dispatched to and received in Northern Ireland where they were deployed by Connor.”

During the trial, the prosecution said Connor and Downes met online and established a relationship when Connor was posing as a blonde Swedish model called Sanne Anderson.

When arrested, Connor denied she knew Downes and rejected claims she communicated with him.

She continued these denials during the trial, but in his ruling the judge said there was overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise.

The court heard that the month before the two explosions, an “intense relationship” via SMS and Facebook messages developed between Connor and Downes as they researched information on pipe bombs.

MattressImage copyrightPACEMAKER
Image captionLaptops belonging to Connor were found in a mattress at her house

During her arrest on 29 May 2013 police searched Connor’s home and found two laptops and a phone hidden in a mattress in a bedroom.

When these devices were examined a movie file was located which depicted a woman walking in north Belfast and talking about police.

This video was described as a ‘practice run’ and despite denials she had made the video, it was ruled that it was Connor in the film. This same clip was also located on Downes’ mobile.

The judge also ruled that the laptops found in the mattress were linked to Connor, and that prior to the May 2013 explosions, online searches such as ‘how to make pipe bombs in your kitchen’ had been made.

Speaking outside court, Det Supt Richard Campbell described the case as “hugely complex and unusual” with several UK police services working together to gather evidence.

“This was an attack on police officers, who were carrying out their role of protecting communities,” he said.

“I would like to pay particular thanks to them. This was a traumatic experience for them and I acknowledge that as victims they have waited a very long time for today’s outcome.

“Today’s conviction is the result of excellent joint working between the PSNI and West Mercia Police alongside the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit and we will now await the sentencing.”

With many thanks to: BBCNI for the original story 

Follow these links to find out more: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/christine-connor-trial-pipe-bomb-allegations-ridiculous-says-defendant-38771651.html

(2)-: https://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/crime/christine-connor-guilty-belfast-woman-who-posed-swedish-model-part-terror-plot-convicted-attempting-kill-police-2927652

 

 

Latest news on suspicious death of Noah Donohoe

Noah and his mum Fiona
Belfast teenager Noah Donohoe died as a result of drowning, a post-mortem examination has found. Image copyrightFAMILY

The 14-year-old went missing on 21 June. His body was found in a storm drain in north Belfast six days later.

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He was travelling to Cave Hill country park to meet friends on the day of his disappearance, the Irish News has reported.

A spokesperson for his family said the “post-mortem raises more questions than answers”.

Andree Murphy, from Relatives for Justice, told BBC News NI that the family are asking for anyone with information, particularly CCTV footage that might track his movements, to come forward.

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A small, private funeral service was held for the 14-year-old at St Patrick’s Church on Donegall Street in Belfast on 1 July.

Mourners lined the streets to pay their respect to the popular St Malachy’s College pupil.

‘Meeting friends’

According to the Irish News, Noah was doing work towards his Duke of Edinburgh award on the day he went missing and it is believed he brought his laptop to gain extra credits during his time off school.

A number of items belonging to him – including his black Apollo mountain bike and some clothing – were found during search operations.

Noah’s phone and laptop were also recovered by police and the family are keen to have these returned to them, the Irish News said.

They have not yet been told if the PSNI have examined the phone’s GPS, the newspaper added.

The family believe the phone’s mapping system may have information on the final movements of the teenager. The disappearance of the grammar school pupil caused a widespread outpouring of grief and sympathy.

Supt Muir Clark said that police “continue to investigate the tragic death of Noah on behalf of the coroner.”

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He said police were finalising a leaflet appealing for information.

It will be distributed to households where the occupants were unavailable to speak to police during the initial stages when Noah disappeared.

“We are aware of media reports stating that the family had been told this proposed leaflet drop had already been undertaken. This is not the case. This may have arisen through a misunderstanding,” he said.

“While respecting that this is a very painful time, police are in contact with Noah’s mother to ensure that she is up to date on the investigation,” he added.

Noah playing the guitar on Mother’s Day
In his death notice, Noah’s family said his “beautiful, pure young soul fills the hearts of his mother Fiona, his aunts Niamh and Shona, their beautiful children and his uncle Gearoid”.

In a tribute to those who helped to search for the schoolboy, the message added: “Noah’s love was great enough to reach the selfless hearts of north Belfast and beyond as they showed overwhelming compassion and empathy in bringing Noah home. Love has no boundaries.”

The Donohoe family say a clip of Noah playing the guitar on Mother’s Day is how he should be remembered.

Ms Murphy has again appealed on behalf of the family for anyone with information to come forward.

“We would like to make another appeal to the public, on behalf of the family, please bring forward any information they may have, particularly any CCTV on the evening of Fathers Day,” Ms Murphy said.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

Dissident Republican Fernando Murphy sentenced to 14 months for stalking ex-partner Irish News journalist Allison Morris

 

An Irish News journalist has revealed that she was harassed by her former partner for four years.

Speaking to BBC Radio Foyle, Allison Morris called for stalking legislation to be extended to Northern Ireland.

It comes days after Fernando Murphy, of Balholm Drive, in Belfast, was jailed for 10 offences, including harassment and breaching a restraining order.

“I was full of anxiety, my hair was falling out with stress,” the security correspondent said about her ordeal.

Murphy, 42, was handed a 14-month sentence at Belfast Magistrates’ Court last Thursday. He will spend half his sentence in prison and the other half on licence.

During four years of abuse, Ms Morris was subjected to “humiliating” behaviour, including Murphy coming to the Irish News and “shouting and screaming”.

It was when the harassment began to impact her family that the journalist decided to act.

Dissident Republican Fernando Murphy was handed a 14-month sentence last week

“I sort of broke after that,” she said.

“I could take the abuse when it was me but when it was my daughter it was different.

“He knew that saying horrible, sexual, things about me wasn’t getting a reaction so he moved on to my family, and the targets became my children and my father, who is very ill, and my work.”

‘A big step’

Ms Morris said going to the police was “a big step”.

Dissident Republican Fernando Murphy and Allison Morris

“As someone who is a crime and security correspondent, I deal with the police on a professional basis quite regularly, often quite critically and I hold them to account in a lot of cases, and I just really didn’t feel comfortable,” she said.

“I didn’t want people to think that I was weak, I didn’t want, in a very Belfast way, for people to know my business.”

Northern Ireland is the only region of UK or Ireland without stalking legislation and Ms Morris says she hopes that sharing her experience will change things.

“It made me angry because I was struggling to navigate it and through my work, I know the legal system.

“I thought ‘what must this be like for someone who doesn’t have this knowledge or support or wouldn’t know where to go to complain or appeal or to push things along?’ It’s such an emotionally destroying process that is desperately in need of change.”

The North of Ireland is the only region of the UK or Ireland without stalking legislation Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Writing on Twitter on Monday afternoon, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said it was “brave and courageous” for Ms Morris to “make her terrible experience public”.

The PSNI currently deals with stalking under the Protection from Harassment Order (NI) 1997.

The Department of Justice held a public consultation last year on the creation of a specific stalking offence.

Its report on the findings said that the majority of respondents strongly supported the introduction of stalking legislation.

The department said it was “determined to do everything it can to protect victims and to stop perpetrators at the earliest opportunity”.

Republican Network for Unity (RNU)

Justice Minister Naomi Long said she was “acutely aware of the distress that stalking behaviour can cause”.

She added that bringing forward legislation that offers the best protection for victims was a priority.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

Follow these links to find out more: http://Judge refuses bid to overturn dissident republican Murphy’s alcohol ban

(2)-: https://seachranaidhe1.blog/2019/10/03/cock-of-the-stalk/amp/

General Election 2019: Nigel Dodds claims that he condemns the sectarian Anti-Finucane banners being erected in Belfast this comes after a statement this morning from the DUP claiming they were unaware of any such banners being erected

Nigel Dodds said the DUP had nothing to do with the banner. Anything personally offensive, smearing and inaccurate of any candidate in the Westminster election must be condemned, DUP “Deputy Dog” Dodds has said.

It follows the removal of a banner which targeted Belfast’s Lord Mayor John Finucane on Monday

The banner, in Belfast’s Tiger’s Bay area, contained allegations about the Sinn Féin North Belfast election candidate and his family.

Mr Dodds said the DUP had nothing to do with the banner.

He said the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) had been “crystal clear” on the use of violence and the activity of those who take part in “vile internet trolling” of victims and some unionist politicians.

However, he also challenged Sinn Féin not to be selective, calling on republicans to “stop eulogising the violent perpetrators of the IRA” including the gunman who shot a police officer guarding him when he was visiting his seriously ill son in hospital in 1996.

Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aitken said the banners “need to come down, no two ways about it”.

Belfast City Council workers were flanked by police as they removed the banner on Monday.

One of the sectarian Anti-Finucane banners targeting John Finucane’s father Pat who was murdered by loyalist Paramilitaries at his home in North Belfast in 1989

Supt Melanie Jones said police were in attendance “to ensure the safety of persons removing a banner from council property”.

“Enquiries are under way to establish if these banners constitute any criminal offence or offences, including a hate incident or hate crime,” added Supt Jones.

‘Hatred and division’
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there had been an “appalling and dangerous” campaign of “harassment, intimidation and threats against John Finucane and his family”.

He is a candidate in next month’s Westminster election in the North Belfast constituency, which is also being contested by outgoing DUP MP Mr Dodds and Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party.

Mr Finucane’s father, Pat, was a solicitor who was shot dead by loyalists at his home in north Belfast in 1989.

The PSNI said it had also received reports about banners erected in south Belfast, adding enquiries were being made.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said banners targeted at candidate Claire Hanna had appeared in south Belfast.

“The banners that have been erected in Belfast targeting John Finucane and Claire Hanna seeking to sow hatred and division are disgusting,” said Mr Eastwood.

“Those responsible are cynically using, abusing and retraumatising victims for narrow political purposes.”

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

Thomas Hogg: Former DUP major in court over child sex offences

Thomas Hogg is a former Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council

A former DUP councillor has appeared in court on charges relating to sexual offences involving a child.

Thomas Hogg, 31, from Brae Hill Park in Belfast has resigned from the DUP and from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, where he was previously mayor.

Mr Hogg is charged with sexual communication with a child and attempting to engage a child in a sexual activity.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Hogg strongly denies the charges.

The case is scheduled to come back to court on 9 December.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

 

Montagh Road Belfast shooting leaves man in hospital with injury to leg

Emergency services were called on Friday night (Image: Stock)

A man has been rushed to hospital after a paramilitary-style shooting in Belfast this evening.

Emergency services were called to Monagh Road, in the west of the city , at 9.25pm on Friday night, September 6.

A 27-year-old man was shot in the leg and taken to hospital. His condition is not known at this time.

Inspector James Murphy said: “At approximately 9.25pm this evening, we received a report that a 27-year-old man had been shot in the leg. He has been taken to hospital.

“This is a cowardly, despicable act that was carried out in a built up area. The perpetrator, or perpetrators, do not care for either the victim or the people who live in close proximity to where this incident happened.

“I would appeal for anyone who witnessed this incident or anyone who has information to contact detectives at Musgrave on 101 quoting ref 2168 06/09/19.”

With many thanks to: Belfast Live and Sarah Scott for the original story 

Suspected ammunition seized in Continuity IRA (CIRA) searches

A quantity of suspected ammunition was seized on Thursday following police searches linked to the Continuity IRA.

Police searched properties in west Belfast and Newtownabbey as part of an ongoing investigation into violent dissident republican activity.

A 37-year-old man arrested in Newtownabbey on Thursday night under the Terrorism Act has been released unconditionally.

A 31-year-old man, arrested in Belfast earlier on Thursday remains in custody.

With many thanks to: BBC News NI for the original story 

 

Murdered on this day Carol Ann Kelly, aged 12-years-old, 22nd May 1981

Carol Ann Kelly, murdered 22nd May 1981 (12) murdered by the British army, died three days after being shot by plastic bullet while walking along Cherry Park, Twinbrook, Belfast

With many thanks to: Saoirse Eire 32 Tiocfaidh Ar La for the original posting

Ballymurphy inquest: Rifles ‘may have been in paramilitary hands’

An inquest is examining the murders of 10 people shot dead by the British Army Parachute Regiment at Ballymurphy in August 1971

Loyalist and republican paramilitary groups and the Army may have possessed the weapons most likely used in the Ballymurphy shootings, according to expert witnesses.

An inquest is looking into the shooting dead of 10 people in the area in west Belfast in August 1971.

A report was presented to the court on Wednesday from ballistics experts.

They are acting on behalf of the Coroner’s Service, the Ministry of Defence and the victims’ next of kin.

Ballymurphy shootings: Who were the victims?
Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips, Daniel Teggart, and Joseph Murphy were fatally shot in an area of waste ground near the Henry Taggart base on 9 August 1971, the day that internment without trial was introduced.

It is thought that almost all of the victims were struck by bullets from a rifle, although it is possible that Noel Phillips was not.

He was struck by 9mm bullets, which may have been fired by a military pistol or a submachine gun on semi or automatic fire.

Intelligence reliability challenged

Some of the rifle bullets could be clearly identified as having come from an SLR weapon (self-loading rifle), identical to those issued to British soldiers.

However, the experts quoted police intelligence that such SLR weapons could also have been in the possession of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries at the time.

The 1971 shootings took place during the introduction of internment without trail

A barrister for Joan Connolly’s family challenged the reliability of that intelligence.

The question arose of exactly when SLR weapons fell into paramilitary hands.

Turning to the injuries of the victims, the ballistics experts told the court:

Joan Connolly was shot three to four times and a fragment of an SLR round was found in her body
Noel Phillips was shot three to four times, at least twice by 9mm bullets, one of which was recovered from his body
Daniel Teggart was shot eight to 11 times but no bullets were recovered
Joseph Murphy was struck at least once in the thigh and a bullet fragment recovered after an exhumation of his body was of a rifle type, which could have included an SLR

‘No evidence of victims firing weapons’
The experts could not say whether the victims had been moving or static when shot or where the shooters had been located.

They agreed that all the shots could have come from the Henry Taggart Army base but could also have come from several other places, such as the waste ground, Vere Foster school, Springmartin and the Springfield Road.

The experts also agreed that none of the victims had been shot from a range closer than about a metre (3ft 4in).

Three of the victims – Joan Connolly, Noel Phillips and Joseph Murphy – could not have been shot by the kind of Mauser rifle that Witness X – the so-called Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) interlocutor – has claimed was being fired by the loyalist paramilitary group that day.

Witness X has not given oral evidence to the inquest.

The Manse field area in Ballymurphy is opposite the Henry Taggart Hall

The ballistics experts also agreed there was no evidence that any of the victims had been firing weapons, although it was noted that their clothes had not been scientifically examined.

Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister for the family of Noel Phillips, spoke at length with Ann Kiernan, a ballistics expert for the next of kin.

Miss Kiernan used a mannequin and tracking rods to demonstrate to the court the positions of Mr Phillips’ injuries.

She agreed with Mr Mansfield’s suggestion that it was possible that Mr Phillips could have been shot by a pistol held as close as two or more feet away, as he lay face down on the ground with an arm raised.

But she could not discount the possibility that the weapon, either a pistol or a sub machine gun, had been fired from the Henry Taggart base or elsewhere.

The court heard that two other victims, Father Hugh Mullan and Francis Quinn, could have been shot by SLRs.

They died on waste ground near Springfield Park on 9 August 1971.

The evidence came in another agreed note from ballistics experts.

They agreed:

Fr Mullan was shot at least twice by rifle bullets while kneeling or lying down and those bullets could have come from an SLR
Frank Quinn was shot in the head by an SLR bullet, which some experts think may have first passed through Fr Mullan, who was beside him
Frank Quinn could not have been shot by the UVF Mauser rifle described by Witness X

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Will Leitch for the original story

 

RUC/PSNI murder plot discussion apparently ‘recorded by MI5’

Colin Duffy, 51, is accused of directing terrorism and being a member of the IRA

An undercover MI5 agent has told a court of how recordings were made of three men allegedly discussing a failed murder attempt on police.

Colin Duffy, 51, Henry Fitzsimons, 50, and 57-year-old Alex McCrory are on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

They face a range of terrorist-related offences connected to a gun attack on the PSNI in 2013.

All three men deny preparing and directing terrorism and being in the IRA.

Mr Fitzsimons and Mr McCrory also deny attempting to murder police and possession of two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The charges relate to a gun attack on a police convoy in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on 5 December 2013.

On Tuesday, the court heard evidence from the MI5 officer, known as witness 9281, on video and audio surveillance carried out on three men in December 2013.

Harry Fitzsimmons, 50, is accused of attempting to murder members of the RUC/PSNI Image copyright © PACEMAKER

However, before the witness was sworn in, defence lawyers said they would be seeking to exclude three audio exhibits.

They said the exhibits were at the centre of the prosecution case.

Speaking from behind a curtain, the MI5 officer said he placed 15 audio devices at a park in Lurgan in December 2013.

The security service officer also confirmed he placed video recording equipment and that its images were transmitted directly to MI5.

‘Grounds of national security’
He was asked by a defence lawyer about a statement he made saying he replaced one of the audio devices.

However, in cross-examination, he said he placed all 15 audio devices at the same time.

When asked about the technical details of the devices and their recording capabilities, he replied a number of times: “I am not sure I can answer that on the grounds of national security.”

Alex McCorey, 57, is accused of attempting to murder members of the RUC/PSNI Image copyright © PACEMAKER

The judge, sitting without a jury in the Diplock-style trial, has heard the surveillance operation was carried out the day after the gun attack on a police convoy in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, in which 14 shots were fired at a three-vehicle patrol by two gunmen.

At an earlier hearing, the prosecution claimed the accused can be identified from the covert video footage and from an hour-long audio recording of them as they talked in a public park in Lurgan, known as Demesne Park.

Prosecution case
It is the prosecution’s case that an analysis of the audio recordings by two voice recognition experts provided strong to moderately strong support that the defendants were those captured discussing how to go forward “in light of Ardoyne, and how the leadership were regrouping”.

The prosecution lawyer further alleged this was supported by the video recordings, as the clothing worn by the three suspects in the Demense Park were similar to that seized from the defendants following their arrests.

“The prosecution case is that the three men present and recorded talking in Demense Lane are Duffy, Fitzsimons and McCrory,” counsel claimed.

“The three defendants are close associates and have been seen together by police prior to the meeting and are also friends,” added the lawyer, who further claimed the men spoke using their first names.

Further proof
The voice analysis evidence of the conversation, which the prosecution alleged was not a “normal one” as it involved “an operation which had not gone to plan, and the failings and difficulties in arming a terrorist organisation”, was further proof of the men’s guilt.

The prosecution told the court the men’s discussions lasted almost an hour and “related almost exclusively to terrorism… there was no discussion about everyday issues”.

The trial continues.

With many thanks to: BBCNI and Dan Stanton for the original story

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