Former soldier accused of possessing firearms in suspicious circumstances

Laganside Court Building in Belfast City centre
Laganside Court Building in Belfast City centre

A former soldier was remanded in custody yesterday accused of having ten improvised explosive devices at his Co Antrim home.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that three blank-firing pistols were also discovered during a police search of John Rankin’s property.

The 51-year-old was described as a self-confessed military and gun enthusiast, now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Rankin, of Edward Road, Whitehead, faces charges of having firearms and explosives in suspicious circumstances.

He is further accused of attempting to have possession of firearms.

Police went to his home on Thursday after learning he had allegedly ordered more pistols online, the court 
was told.

Opposing bail, a detective said the improvised explosive devices were found in an outside shed.

Rankin’s solicitor argued there was no sinister motive for his client having the items.

“He has a full employment record and a distinguished military career,” the 
lawyer said.

“This isn’t your typical person indicative of criminal behaviour.”

It was claimed that the accused won’t get proper psychiatric treatment for his PTSD while in custody.

During the hearing District Judge Fiona Bagnall expressed her “grave concerns” over the information from police.

“He has further items he had ordered and were on their way,” she noted.

“He clearly has some sort of obsession with guns and this type of paraphernalia.”

Judge Bagnall also pointed out that the devices allegedly had shrapnel attached to them.

It was contended, however, that tape put round the cylinder meant any detonation would be straight up, rather than causing a sideways blast of shrapnel.

“The entire set of circumstances is totally bizarre,” Rankin’s lawyer added.

But refusing bail, the judge cited risks to the public and of re-offending.

Rankin was remanded in custody to appear again by video-link on February 21.