Bomb-case trial told of high-speed Garda car chase

Laganside.
Laganside.

The non-jury trial of an Armagh man accused of planting a lethal booby-trap bomb under the car of an off-duty policeman in Eglinton, Londonderry has heard of the high-speed chase with armed Garda in Donegal which led to his initial capture.

Belfast Crown Court has already heard that although Garda detained Sean McVeigh and two others outside the Donegal village of Killygordon shortly after the device was planted, he was not arrested by the PSNI until nearly a year later.

The 37-year-old from Victoria Street in Lurgan, who denies attempting to murder police and possessing the under-car bomb on June 18 2015, was eventually arrested by PSNI officers in May 2016 while travelling on a Lurgan-bound trian.

The court was told on Wednesday that Garda in Letterkenny were initially asked for assistance by the PSNI in Londonderry concerning two vehicles which failed to stop at a police checkpoint and were thought to be en route to Bridgend in Donegal. It was also suspected they may have had something to do with the planting of the bomb.

While a number of Garda patrols were alerted, the court also heard that members from the Garda’s armed Regional Support Unit, based in Ballyshannon, were also tasked to take part in the search for the car.

It was a two-man patrol from this specialist unit, while driving towards the border town of Lifford, which first spotted one of the suspect vehicles, a black VW Passat, on the outskirts of Killygordon, and immediatley gave chase.

The driver said although he switched on his siren and blue flashing vehicle lights, the Passat was “clearly ... evading any attempt by ourselves to stop it”.

He also revealed that in the Donegal village, the Passat drove through a red light, even swerving on to the wrong side of the road to avoid a car already stopped at the lights. However, eventually Garda managed to block the Passat as it sped towards Ballybofey.

He said that after first detaining and handcuffing the rear-seat passenger, he then detained and cuffed McVeigh, who was the front-seat passenger, while his sergeant arrested the driver. Despite being asked for their names, the three men remained silent, he added.

Later in a follow-up search of the chase route, the Garda said that he found a black glove, turned inside out, lying on the ground.

During cross-examination the Garda officers said they were “conscious” of the need to forensically protect the scene, and of the dangers of possible contamination.

However, they accepted that they had not been wearing gloves at the time, and had not put the men in forensic suits, as they were not available.

They also said that the three suspects were only “patted down” to ensure they had nothing and that the Passat was given only a “cursory search as such”, again to establish there was nothing which would or could have posed a danger.

But they maintained that there had been no “long search of the vehicle” and that while they may have looked inside the vehicle, they had not got into it, although it would have been possible for other Garda to enter the vehicle without their knowledge.

The trial continues.