Former soldier admits bomb charges

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A former soldier on Friday pleaded guilty to having improvised explosive devices at his Co Antrim home.

John Rankin, 52, from Edward Road in Whitehead, appeared in the dock at Belfast Crown Court to be re-arraigned on a single count under the Explosive Substances Act of 1883.

The ex-soldier, who served in the Falklands War, admitted to having a nail bomb and six blast bombs in suspicious circumstances on dates between January 1, 2013 and January 24, 2014.

Earlier this month at a previous arraignment hearing, Rankin had pleaded guilty to possessing three blank firing automatic pistols without the authority of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Prosecution lawyer Kate McKay told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that Rankin’s plea to possession of explosives in suspicious circumstance was accepted by the Crown.

“In the light of this plea, I would ask that three further counts he faced be left on the books and not to be proceeded without the leave of this court or the Court of Appeal.’’

Those charges related to making explosives under suspicious circumstances between January 12 and January 24, 2014, attempting to possess three blank firing pistols on dates between October 1 and October 30, 2013, and possessing firearms without a certificate.

Defence barrister Denis Boyd asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on Rankin.

Judge David McFarland said he would sentence Rankin on March 18 and released the defendant on continuing bail, but warned him: “The fact you have been released on bail should not be taken as an indication of how this court will deal with you next month.’’

Although no details about the case against Rankin emerged at Belfast Crown Court on Friday, a previous court hearing was told police searched his home after a parcel containing three pistols was intercepted in England.