Dissident republican ‘spoke of bomb attack in secret recording’

Gavin Coyle.
Gavin Coyle.

A convicted dissident republican accused of a murder bid on a Northern Ireland policeman has allegedly been secretly recorded talking about the attack, a court has heard.

Self-confessed dissident Gavin Coyle, 38, appeared in court charged with the bomb attack on an off-duty Catholic police officer near Castlederg, Co Tyrone, in 2008.

Coyle, formerly of Culmore Park, Omagh, was arrested earlier this week inside Maghaberry high security prison near Lisburn, where he is serving a ten-year sentence for a range of dissident terror offences.

The officer was driving from his home to start a night shift at Enniskillen police station in May 2008 when an under car bomb, made up of 1lb of high explosives, detonated.

The injured policeman was able to escape the burning vehicle but suffered serious leg wounds.

Coyle, who plead guilty to a range of other terror charges two years ago, appeared before Strabane Magistrates’ Court accused of attempted murder, causing an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury and membership of a proscribed organisation.

The court heard that police interviewed Coyle about the attack twice in 2008 but that prosecutors decided the evidence against him - namely CCTV images, number plate recognition data, two witness statements, text messages and a trace of explosive residue found in his car - was insufficient to charge him.

A detective constable said evidence from a covert recording of a meeting allegedly involving Coyle, recorded in February 2010, had now given police sufficient grounds to charge the accused.

The officer said the accused’s convictions in relation to other dissident activities also added weight to the evidence against him

Coyle’s solicitor Niall Murphy asked the officer why the charge had only materialised five years after the recording was obtained. He also questioned why it was not used against his client in his previous prosecution.

“This material was in the cognisance of the prosecution five years ago,” he said.

The officer said expert voice recording analysis had taken a long time to progress and detectives only received a final report on the taped meeting in October this year.

Mr Murphy, who questioned whether the man taped at the meeting was his client, highlighted that no specific details about the attack, such as the name of the officer or the location, were mentioned in the recorded conversation.

He accused police of an “abuse of process” and said a bid to stay the prosecution would be made at a later court hearing.

Upon further questioning by the solicitor, the officer acknowledged the case against Coyle did not include fingerprint, DNA, fibre or vehicle tracking evidence.

In January 2014, Coyle was handed a ten year sentence, five to be spent behind bars, after admitting possession of arms and explosives and membership of the dissident organisation styling itself the new IRA. The weapons haul was found at industrial premises in Coalisland, Co Tyrone in April 2011. He is due for release in April next year.

At the start of Thursday’s court hearing, Coyle, wearing jeans and a blue and grey top, sat down when asked to stand by the judge.

The district judge raised his behaviour with Mr Murphy.

The solicitor replied: “I don’t think there is anything I can do about that.”

The accused also declined to answer when asked if he understood the charges facing him.

Mr Murphy made a bail application, noting that while his client was already in custody he had been due for a period of temporary release over the Christmas period.

The judge refused the application on the grounds Coyle posed a risk of committing further offences, absconding and interfering with witnesses.

Coyle was remanded to appear before the same court, via video-link, on December 31.

The accused gave the thumbs up to a supporter in the public gallery as he was led from the dock.