A 45-year old former convicted gunman man caught red-handed in a police undercover operation on the Fermanagh border which netted a massive haul of terrorist equipment two years ago, will find out next week how much longer he will serve in jail.
Antrim Crown Court heard that among the terrorist cache Barry Francis Joseph Petticrew admitted having, were three timer power units never previously seen in Northern Ireland and 500 kilos of high grade nitro based fertilizer used in home-made explosives.
Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told, putting that amount of fertilizer in context, the Omagh bomb of 1998 weighed between 150 and 250 kilos, while the Canary Warf was 1000 kilos and those left in Banbridge and Portadown before Omagh, were 150 kilos.
In custody since the raid on the Fermanagh farm buildings at Kinawley on Wednesday October 8, 2014, Petticrew, originally from Belfast, had been living in Swanlinbar in Co Cavan at the time.
A defence lawyer described Petticrew, convicted by the Central Criminal Court in Dublin in 2009, as a vulnerable man, with a low IQ who was trying to protect his father while being preyed upon and used by more sinister and sophisticated individuals.
He added that Petticrew had instructed him publicly to disassociate himself from any political affiliation and in the unusual circumstances of this case, the court could temper the need for deterrent sentences.
However, a prosecution lawyer said that the gun Petticrew was convicted in Dublin of trying to smuggle into Belfast was a Browning 9mm pistol and ammunition, and despite his claims, they were of little odds as his role on this occasion was that of a “trusted one”.
In addition, with regard his divorcing himself from republicanism, a year before being caught, in 2013, he helped form part of guard of honour at a republican funeral.
Earlier the barrister revealed that Petticrew was caught on camera moving materials to and from the van he drove up in, and between the farm house and outbuildings, and when he realised he was being watched made a dash for the border. Discarding the gloves he was wearing as he ran across fields, he was stopped just 500 yards from the border.
And when caught a breathless Petticrew protested his innocence, telling officers, “I’m not a terrorist, I’m not involved in actual terrorism or criminality”.
He later repeated that he was “not involved” and despite the evidence of the police surveillance video, of moving the likes of a gas cylinder and a black training bag, later found to contain explosive devices, maintained that position during interview.
Petticrew claimed he only went to the farm to feed the cattle and to fix a shower, constantly denying carrying anything, while suggesting his family were under threat. He also claimed that he had found a wire leading to the roof space and undercovered the ammunition.
In all there were over 160 rounds of ‘long rifle’ ammunition, normally used for vermin control, hunting and sport shooting; 30 rounds of 7.62mm, together with a quantity of 9mm ammunition, used exclusively by the military and security forces. There were also a hundred boxes of shotgun cartridges.
The prosecution lawyer said that in addition to the gas cylinder Petticrew was seen putting into the van, there was another in one of the outbuildings. Other explosive materials included the eight-second timer units, never seen in the north before, six pipe bombs, coffee-jar type devices, devoid of explosives, rotary battery timer units, as well as mechanical timer units and a number of toggle switches.
During a three day search of the farm buildings, detonating cord, a coffee grinder, explosive filling, a mortar base, fertiliser, disposable suits and rubber gloves, dust masks, cutting discs, a glue gun, and electrical tape were also uncovered.
In defence the court heard that the background to Petticrew’s offending stemmed from wanting to help his father who was planning to move into the farmhouse once it was repaired. Unfortunately and to his detriment he became association with those more sinister and sophisticated elements who preyed upon him.
The lawyer said it was his instructions that Petticrew did not know fully what was going on and had only been to the farm on about four or five occasions.
“His instructions are he never brought anything to this house and never had any contact with any of these items,” said the lawyer who further claimed Petticrew did not know how long they had been at the farm and “had no idea who brought them”.
Petticrew had foolhardily become involved, foolishly permitting himself to be used, said Counsel, knowing his father wanted to move into the farmhouse.
The lawyer said while Petticrew never intended directly using any of the materials in anyway, he suspected that they were dangerous materials, and would never agree to them being used.
However, the lawyer agreed with Judge Kerr this had not been the case he had made at interview, although he could have, and while he was not entitled to full credit for his guilty pleas, they were of significant benefit to the prosecution.
Undercover police, he said, were saved having to give evidence in court, and Petticrew’s his pleas “were an acceptance of his responsibility and remorse”.
In all he pleaded guilty to three charges of possessing explosive substances with intent, possession of articles useful to terrorists and possession of ammunition, also with intent.