Belfast woman Christine Connor fails in bid to overturn conviction for attempting to murder police officer

A woman jailed for trying to murder a police officer in north Belfast failed in a bid to overturn her conviction.

Christine Connor
Christine Connor

Christine Connor claimed she was wrongly found to have launched a pipe bomb attack on officers lured to the scene by a hoax 999 call in May 2013.

But judges at the Court of Appeal dismissed all grounds of challenge to the guilty verdict.

Appearing remotely from custody, Connor described the proceedings as “farcical” and denied being a terrorist.

The 35-year-old, whose address in the city is subject to reporting restrictions, is serving a 20-year sentence for carrying out the attack.

She was found guilty of attempted murder and causing an explosion likely to endanger life following a non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court.

According to the prosecution she carried out a trial run on May 16, throwing a pipe bomb on the Ligoniel Road and then phoning to say a device had been left on a wall.

A couple were travelling on the road when the device exploded, but no damage was caused to their vehicle.

Defence lawyers questioned whether a pipe bomb was even used in that incident, therefore calling into question any potential for endangering life.

Tim Moloney QC contended that it had been wrong to exclude the possibility of the explosion being caused by something else.

Pointing to the lack of debris at the scene, he claimed: “Beyond the context, there is no material evidence which is consistent with the deployment of a pipe bomb at that junction that night.”

In a second incident, a bogus 999 call lured PSNI officers to the Crumlin Road in the early hours of May 28.

Connor was said to have been behind the hoax, claiming to be a victim of domestic abuse who needed urgent police assistance.

When officers attended a house in the area a pipe bomb was thrown at them from a nearby alleyway.

At the scene police found evidence linking Connor to the attack, including a hoodie top which bore her blood, as well as a shopping bag containing her phone and gloves with her DNA on them.

She contested a finding at trial that she was the one who actually throwing the devices.

Mr Moloney told the three appeal judges there was no positive case necessary to establish her conviction for attempted murder.

“Our complaint is this conclusion she threw the devices, and that she therefore had the intent is not sustainable in the case as a whole,” he said.

Liam McCollum QC, for the prosecution, argued that even if someone else had thrown the devices, Connor was still responsible as part of a joint enterprise.

“This was a group of people acting as part of a terrorist organisation, and the intention of everybody involved was to kill police officers,” he insisted.

“It wasn’t a pipe bomb being thrown willy-nilly at just anybody, it was a pipe bomb directed specifically to police officers who had been lured to the scene.”

Backing prosecution submissions that her convictions were safe, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan said full reasons will be given at a later stage.

As a further hearing on her sentence got underway, Connor refused to return to video-link facilities at Hydebank Prison.

But in a note read out to the court by a prison officer, she claimed her appeal against conviction had been dismissed due to “administrative prejudice”.

She stated: “I am not a terrorist, I have political views which I will not distance myself from.

“Being a republican does not make me guilty of an attempt to kill.

“Proceedings thus far have been farcical, but I will continue to fight my wrongful conviction.”