1. ITV Report

Connor accused of ‘telling lies to get out of mess’

A north Belfast woman charged with involvement in a pipe bomb attack on police has been accused of telling lies in a bid to get herself out a "mess”.

As well as rejecting this suggestion, Christine Connor said: "Just because I'm a Republican and hold Republican beliefs does not mean I attempted to murder any police officers."

The 34-year-old, whose address can't be reported for legal reasons, is standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on six offences - including attempting to murder police, possessing explosives and causing an explosion - arising from two pipe bomb incidents in the north of the city in May 2013.

The first occurred in the Ligoniel Road on 16 May, with the second on the Crumlin Road in the early hours of 28 May when two devices were launched at police.

Connor spent her second day in the witness box at her non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court, where she was cross-examined by Crown barrister Liam McCollum QC.

She was asked to explain how her DNA was present on several items found close to the scene at one incident, and was also asked about the contents found on electrical items located in a mattress in her home.

As well as questioning the evidence of several Crown witnesses, Connor denied involvement in both pipe bomb incidents - and made the case the courts viewed her as a "second-class citizen" due to her political beliefs.

After confirming her Republican background, Connor was asked if she believed in "the violent struggle or the peaceful struggle”.

She said that while she didn't feel she had the right to condemn anyone, "if there are people who believe the only way to a united Ireland is through an armed struggle, then fine. That's not the same as me saying I would be involved in it”.

Mr McCollum asked the defendant is she had "any problem" with the attempt to kill police on 28 May, Connor she said she would not condemn "anyone who continues with the armed struggle, but that does not mean I'm involved in that.

“I support NASA but I'm not an astronaut."

At various points during her cross-examination, Connor said she had waited for six-and-a-half years to give her version of event.

Claiming she could have been set up, Connor was asked about two laptops and a mobile phone found in a mattress in her home.

Connor denied owing the devices, pointed out she was not forensically connected to the phone, and suggested the police speak to the person whose fingerprints were located on the mobile.

She was also asked to explain the presence of her DNA on a phone located close to the scene of the early morning explosion on the Crumlin Road and gloves found in an alleyway, as well as her blood on a hoodie top found in a nearby skip.

Saying that prior to the events of May 2013 she had "contributed items off clothing to various republicans groups" such as hats and gloves, Connor added: "There are many many many potentially innocent ways to explain what there was DNA belonging to me on those gloves."

And when asked about her blood on the hoodie, she raised concerns about the accuracy of the forensic results as the hoodie was in a skip with other items.

Again suggesting she had been set up by someone else, Connor said: "I'm only speculating, but perhaps when I was wearing it maybe ten years ago, perhaps we had a car crash together and perhaps I got blood on him."

Connor was also asked to comment on two video clips - one was a short movie clip of the inside of Connor's home which is accompanied by a female voice, while the second is a longer clip of a woman walking in north Belfast.

It's the Crown's case that the latter is Connor recording a 'practice route' for the first pipe bomb incident on 16 May, and when it was put to her that the voice on the clips sounded "very like" her, Connor replied: "That's a very unfair statement to make on the basis you are not a forensic voice analyst."

Following a day of cross-examination, Mr McCollum accused her of lying.

Reminding her that she swore on the Bible to tell the truth, the prosecuting QC said: "You have no compunction about telling lies to get yourself out of the mess you have got yourself into."

She replied: "I totally disagree with that. I fully accepted coming into court that no matter what I say or no matter what I do, I will automatically be deemed the bad one.

"I'm a Republican. Let's be honest here, born bad, born guilty. I am not a liar. I did not attempt to kill police officers."

Saying she felt like a "second class citizen" who was "despised" by the courts, Connor added: "I am proud of who I am. I am happy with who I am as a person. My conscience is clear."

The conclusion of Connor's cross-examination marked the end of both the defence case and the trial.

Both the prosecution and defence will now make final submissions to Judge Stephen Fowler QC, who set a date for a further hearing on 10 January 2020.