‘Walter Mitty character’ jailed for possessing rare explosives


A man described in court as a “Walter Mitty character’’ was yesterday sentenced to six years after police found a haul of high-powered explosives never seen before in Northern Ireland during a search in Co Antrim last year.

Niall Lehd, 25, of Seahill Road, Larne, pleaded guilty in May to possession of explosives with intent to endanger life and having a firearm or ammunition in suspicious circumstances.

Prosecution counsel told Belfast Crown Court that Lehd’s guilty pleas were accepted on the basis of ‘second limb’ – that he possessed the explosives to allow unknown persons to endanger life.

The explosives were discovered when police were called to Britannia Crescent in Larne on February 28, 2013, after a suspicious item was found.

The prosecution also said that during the course of the police operation, local people told officers of hearing a “loud explosion’’ on the previous night, February 27.

Lehd approached the police and told him he owned the bag and that there were high explosives in it.

The explosive was DDNP, a sensitive primary high explosive used commercially as an initiating explosive in detonators. It was the first time DDNP has been recovered in Northern Ireland.

Lehd was arrested and subsequent searches of his house and rough ground in Larne found items that could be used in the manufacture of explosives, and a submachine gun.

A defence lawyer said: “The defendant was interviewed and freely admitted that the items were his but on the final interview he claimed that he had been forced to store these items on behalf of an unknown person.’’

He added: “To use a well known hackneyed expression he is a Walter Mitty character. There is no doubt about that. He is well known by neighbours who have described him as ‘a nuisance and a fool’.”

Sentencing Lehd to six years, half to be spent in prison, Judge David McFarland said: “I do not consider you to be dangerous. There is more of a risk to yourself than to others.”