DNA links man to PSNI attempted murder bid at golf club

Partial DNA profiles on components of a bomb found under a PSNI officer’s car are a billion times more likely to come from a man charged with his attempted murder than anyone else, the High Court heard on Friday.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 4:16 pm
A police car outside Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast after the attempted murder of a PSNI officer

Prosecutors said forensic evidence connects 39-year-old Peter Granaghan to the bid to kill the off-duty policeman at a golf club in east Belfast on June 1.

Granaghan, of Blackrock Park in Belleek, Co Fermanagh, denies involvement in the thwarted attack for which dissident republican terror grouping The New IRA claimed responsibility. His lawyers insisted any DNA traces on wires and battery connectors used in the device can be explained by innocent contact during past work as an electrician and handyman.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice O’Hara held there was a risk of further offences being committed.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He said: “The bomb under the policeman’s car was placed by people who do not support the ceasefire and who support continuing violence against members of the security forces and against others.”

Granaghan is charged with attempted murder, as well as making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.

The court heard the off-duty officer discovered the bomb below his car while it was parked at Shandon Park Golf Cub.

He had just finished a round of golf and was walking back to the vehicle when he spotted something underneath it.

A military technical officer carried out a controlled explosion at the scene to disrupt the device and seize items for forensic examination.

The New IRA later claimed responsibility for the booby trap car bomb, expressing confidence that it would have exploded if it had travelled over uneven terrain.

In a message to a Belfast newspaper the organisation warned: “We were unlucky this time, but we only have to be unlucky once.”

A Crown lawyer claimed DNA taken from the accused following his arrest in September matched samples obtained from the wires and battery connector.

He disclosed details of a report from a forensic expert who considered two possibilities: firstly, that the partial profiles came from Granaghan; and secondly that they belonged to some other unknown person.

“This finding is at least one billion times more likely to arise under the first proposition,” counsel recited.

“That is the basis of the Crown connection of this applicant to that device.”

Granaghan was said to have sat with his head rested on folded arms during police questioning, and made no attempt to look at any evidence put to him.

According to the prosecution he would only eat cereal bars or food brought into custody by his solicitor.

“I’m instructed by police this is common practice among alleged dissident republicans when they are being interviewed,” the barrister added.

Donal Sayers, defending, argued that anyone involved with the bomb would have been forensically aware, handling it with care to ensure no evidential traces were left.

He stressed Granaghan is a man with no relevant previous record who has worked as a plasterer and electrician.

“The recovery of a partial DNA profile in these circumstances may be considered less likely to disclose the identify of somebody involved in the preparation of an explosive device than to disclose innocent contact with components in another time and another context,” Mr Sayers submitted.

Denying the bail application, however, Mr Justice O’Hara added: “A dissident republican attempt to murder a police officer indicates to me that it follows there’s a risk of offending if Mr Granaghan is released on bail.”