A secret camera hidden in the toilet of a DUP MP’s constituency office contained 216,373 photos or videos, a court yesterday was told as a former DUP adviser went on trial charged with voyeurism.
The images — which appeared to have been hidden on the device — were recovered by a PSNI forensics officer and a detective has viewed more than 100,000 of the files, Craigavon Magistrates Court was told.
David McConaghie of Cottage Hill, Dollingstown, — who was the senior adviser to Upper Bann MP David Simpson — denies that he “installed equipment...to observe, for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, a third person doing a private act, knowing that the third person did not consent to being observed for that purpose”.
The device was discovered by a female member of staff in Mr Simpson’s Portadown office after she became suspicious about a bowl of Potpourri which Mr McConaghie had got for the toilet but which she said kept being moved several inches so that it was facing the toilet cubicle — despite her moving it back several times.
The female member of staff was one of four employees who worked in Mr Simpson’s office.
She said that some time prior to the discovery of the device she had become suspicious about Mr McConaghie because he had begun to hang his suit jacket on the towel rail in the toilet with his camera phone lens “pointing out directly at the toilet”. She eventually asked him why he was not hanging the jacket on the coat rail and said the incident was “brushed off” but the coat was no longer placed in the toilet.
Mr McConaghie’s defence solicitor objected to that detail being raised, stressing that there was no offence involved and claimed it was “mud-slinging”. But the judge allowed the evidence to be heard in court, although he stressed that he had not made a decision about whether to allow it to stand as evidence.
Then “subsequent to that, David McConaghie suggested that we should get some potpourri for the toilet”, before doing so himself.
She said that on 12 September 2012 she went for lunch with a female colleague and told her of her suspicions about the potpourri which she said had been placed in an unusual position some six inches from the corner, and pointing directly at the toilet.
She said that she repeatedly moved the pot into the corner but it kept being moved out again.
She said: “As deliberately as I was moving it into the corner, someone was moving it back out again.”
She also claimed that Mr McConaghie had told her that he had bought a “secret recording device” for £120 during a brief conversation about something which had been in a newspaper. Later, that added to her suspicions, she said.
Mr McConaghie’s lawyer suggested that may have been a CCTV camera which was not a secret device but the woman disputed that.
She said that after removing the device and re-filling the bowl, they returned it to the toilet and Mr McConaghie cut off a phone call and “seemed anxious to get in to use the bathroom”.
She told the court that she took the device out of the office and, after plugging it into a laptop, said that “the only thing I seen (sic) on the laptop at that time appeared to be the device being placed by David McConaghie”.
In cross examination it was suggested to the woman that anyone who moved the pot could have caused the camera to activate.
After speaking to her colleague, they tipped the potpourri out of the bowl and found the device.
Some videos from the device are to be shown in open court but some of the more disturbing recordings were viewed privately in chambers by District Judge, Mervyn Bates at the agreement of both sides so as to protect the privacy of the victims.
However, the judge said that in the interests of justice being done in public, “there must be a description in public court”.
A prosecutor said that some of the videos relate to “the private act...use of the lavatory by a female”.
The female member of staff was told that some of the videos involved her going to the toilet, something she said left her feeling “devastated”.
She added: “David McConaghie, I had thought so much of him...it was a very small office and we were all very close”.
She said that she then told Mr Simpson about the issue and gave the device to the MP. She said: “I suppose I was reluctant [about escalating the issue] as such, I said to David that perhaps we could just talk about it in the office. David said to me that it wasn’t an option . We had a duty of care to all the staff to get to the bottom of it.”
The “USB camera device” — which may have been motion activated — was held up in court and appeared to be about three inches in length.
The files were stored on three discs — two filled with videos and one containing photos.
A specialist PSNI officer who examined the device and used a “forensic process” to recover the files told the court: “I’ve never come across a device such as this before”.
Mr McConaghie had been a trained Free Presbyterian minister and a press officer for the traditionalist Christian group the Caleb Foundation, although he parted ways with that group after the allegations came to light.
Mr Simpson told the court that he had been given the device by the female member of staff and had put it in a locked drawer. He said that he had met the male staff in the office collectively and expressed his concern about what had been found. He told them that he was going to the police.
After the discovery of the device on the Wednesday, Mr McConaghie met Mr Simpson on Saturday and resigned.
The MP spoke to a PSNI officer on the Monday and then gave the device to police about a fortnight after it had been discovered.
Mr McConaghie’s lawyer put it to Mr Simpson that his client had resigned because he was not prepared to work in an environment where there were “fingers pointed in his direction”, even though he had worked there for over 11 years and maintains that he did nothing wrong.
The case was adjourned and will resume next month when the prosecution will continue its case before the defence case is heard.