Woman, 20, cleared of terror-related explosives charges

Orla OHanlon was acquitted of all 10 terrorist-related charges she faced
Orla OHanlon was acquitted of all 10 terrorist-related charges she faced

A 20-year-old woman who faced a host of terrorist-related offences after the border home she shared with her partner was searched by police, has been acquitted of the charges.

Whilst Orla O’Hanlon was freed, her 21-year-old partner Keith McConnan was remanded back in to custody after he was convicted of two charges.

The couple were arrested on December 18, 2013 after their rented bungalow on the Tievecrom Road in Forkhill was searched by police.

During their search, officers located a number of items including an industrial grinder, a complete timer power unit and a quantity of crushed ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

Both Ms O’Hanlon and McConnan were arrested and subsquently charged with a number of terrorist-related offences, and the couple stood trial late last year at Belfast Crown Court.

Judge Sandra Crawford, who presided over the Diplock non-jury trial, presented her judgment on the case on Wednesday.

She aquitted Ms O’Hanlon on all 10 charges she faced, while McConnan – who originally faced nine charges – was found guilty of two offences and cleared of the other charges.

The couple were tried on a series of serious offences including possessing explosives, both with intent to endanger life, and also in suspicious circumstances.

McConnan admitted possessing the grinder but made the case he was acting under duress as he was under threat from a dissident republican who has been linked to the Omagh bomb.

During the trial it emerged that during the search of the bungalow, officers located a plastic bag in a wardrobe in the couple’s bedroom. The bag contained items including an improvised mobile phone-operated switch unit and portable power supply, as well as a reloaded cartridge.

It was the Crown’s case that these items, along with the presence of the industrial grinder, suggested that the couple were engaging in illegal activity linked to the preparation of bombs.

McConnan admitted touching the bag and placing it in the wardrobe, but always denied he had any knowledge of its contents.

Finding McConnan guilty of two charges linked to the bag Judge Crawford said it was “inconceivable and wholly implausible” that he didn’t know what was in the bag.

Before McConnan was returned back to custody, his barrister asked that he be released on bail pending sentencing next month.

The barrister told Judge Crawford that McConnan has been on remand since his arrest and has already served over two years in custody.

Judge Crawford said she would hear a full bail application later this week.