Londonderry man ‘set fire to police car’

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The trial of a 32-year-old Co Londonderry man accused of endangering the lives of two police officers by setting fire to a PSNI vehicle outside his home has begun at Belfast Crown Court.

James McLaughlin, from Glenshane Road in Feeney, is facing several charges arising from an incident at the home he shares with his parents on September 8, 2012.

As well as being charged with setting fire to a police car with intent to endanger life, he has also been charged with attempting to set fire to a second vehicle with intent, of issuing threats to kill two police officers and also possessing a hurley bat with the intention of assaulting police.

McLaughlin denies all the charges, and didn’t appear in the dock for the opening of his trial. However, Judge Gordon Kerr QC made the decision to proceed in his absence.

Opening the Crown case against McLaughlin to the jury, prosecutor Philip Henry said four officers in two cars responded to a call and arrived at the family home at around 5.15pm on the day in question.

The officers –two male and two female constables – parked in the driveway when they noticed McLaughlin outside the property. He was bare-chested with a hurley bat in one hand and also in possession of a petrol container and lighter.

He is then alleged to have tried to throw petrol over the officers, poured petrol over both vehicles, with one igniting, threatened two officers, and then fled along an alleyway. At hearing.