Blood spots left in a priest’s car used by a suspect in an IRA bombing match the DNA of a Co Tyrone man accused of the attack, a court has heard.
Paul Campbell, 37, was also treated for a gunshot wound in a hospital across the Irish border the day after the SAS fired on two men suspected of attacking Coalisland police station, a detective told Dungannon Magistrates’ Court.
Campbell was arrested at a railway station in Portadown, Co Armagh at the weekend – 18 years after the 1997 improvised grenade bomb bid on the heavily-fortified RUC station.
The accused, whose address was given as The Mills, Coalisland, Co Tyrone, appeared before District Judge John Meehan accused of causing an explosion with intent to endanger life.
Judge Meehan granted bail but his decision has been challenged by prosecutors, with the accused set to remain in custody until the matter is heard in Belfast’s High Court on Thursday.
While the charge facing Campbell normally commands a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if found guilty, only two years could ever be imposed in his case, as it is covered under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement’s early release arrangements.
Campbell, wearing jeans and blue checked shirt, did not speak during the hearing. He also remained seated when asked to stand.
As he entered the dock, amid an armed police presence in court, he nodded to his wife and other supporters in the public gallery.
The court heard that on the night of the incident, an SAS soldier saw two men running down a laneway at the rear of the police station and, fearing they were about to produce weapons, he opened fire.
Coalisland man Gareth Doris, then 19, was struck and fell to the ground seriously injured.
He was later charged in hospital and in 1998 was handed a 10-year jail sentence for his involvement. He was released two years into his term as part of the Good Friday peace deal.
The other man shot at by the SAS got into a white car that drove off. Prosecutors contend that man is Campbell.
A detective sergeant told the judge the white Toyota car belonged to local parish priest Seamus Rice.
She said the cleric told police officers at the time he had slowed down upon hearing explosions and a man unknown to him jumped in the back and demanded that he drive off.
The back window of the car was shattered amid the hail of bullets.
The priest said the man got out of the car a short time later.
The detective said blood stains left in the back seat were subsequently forensically tested. She said those results were compared with a DNA swab taken from Campbell on Sunday.
“The sample from Paul Campbell positively matched blood recovered from the rear of the car driven by Fr Rice on the date of the offence,” she said.
The officer said a man calling himself John Murphy presented at a hospital in Co Louth the following day with a gunshot wound. She said he gave the same date of birth as Campbell and told staff he had sustained the injuries falling off a motorcycle.
A medical examination found a bullet lodged in his body, which was subsequently removed, the detective added.
She said gardai later identified the injured man as Campbell and arrested him for questioning.
Judge Meehan asked if efforts to extradite the suspect had been made in the wake of his detention by gardai.
The detective said she was unaware if extradition was considered at the time but said police in Northern Ireland had been consulting with prosecutors from 2011 onward about requesting a European Arrest Warrant.
She said when the first opportunity arose to arrest him in Northern Ireland officers took it.
Lawyer Peter Corrigan, representing Campbell, told the court his client had not been living in the Irish Republic since the incident.
The solicitor said he had been residing openly in Coalisland for periods, including working in his uncle’s bar.
The detective told the court that grounds to arrest Campbell only emerged in 2011 as a consequence of another police investigation in Coalisland. At that point, the officer said, Campbell moved across the border to Co Monaghan, where he has lived for four years.
She opposed bail, citing risks of reoffending, interfering with witnesses and absconding from the jurisdiction.
The officer told the court Campbell did not answer any questions during 14 recorded interviews or when the charge was put to him in custody.
Mr Corrigan insisted bail should be granted.
He questioned why it had taken police so long to arrest his client if blood samples were obtained from the car in 1997.
He described his client as being from a well-respected family and noted that neither he nor any relative had a criminal conviction.
Pointing to apparent deficiencies in the prosecution case, Mr Corrigan said: “This defendant has every incentive to attend court.”
The lawyer also said other individuals accused of Troubles-related crimes covered by the Good Friday Agreement had been released on bail.
Judge Meehan granted bail, with a number of tight restrictions. However, a representative from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) said the decision would be challenged in the High Court.
The judge told Campbell he would remain in custody until the appeal was heard.