A Co Fermanagh man has been acquitted of constructing a bomb planted under the car of a police officer. In a lengthy ruling delivered at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Fowler found Peter Granaghan 'not guilty' on charges of attempting to murder the police officer, and both making and possessing explosives with intent to endanger life.
The senior judge determined that a lack of ability to determine how and when Mr Granaghan's DNA came to be on a piece of wire found inside the device, coupled with other circumstantial evidence, was insufficient to prove the accused made the bomb. The charges faced by Granaghan - who attended the hearing via a videolink with Maghaberry - arose from an incident which sparked a security alert in the car park of Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday June 1st, 2019. The officer had left his home that morning and parked his Cherokee Jeep in the Club's car park. After playing a round of golf, he returned to his vehicle and noticed an object on its underside.
Army technical experts were called to the car park and dealt with the wooden box-type under vehicle improvised device which was packed with 65 grams of TNT. Despite his DNA being found on the inside of the device, Mr Justice Fowler determined that the Crown had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Granaghan had been involved in its construction. As well as Mr Granaghan's DNA being present on wire on the inside of the bomb, the Crown also presented circumstantial evidence which it said showed his support for violent dissident republican ideology. This, the Crown said, included images found on a laptop during a search of his Blackrock Park home in Belleek and associating with known terrorists both before and after his arrest in September 2019. The Crown case against Mr Granaghan - and in particular the DNA evidence - was dismissed as 'terminally defective' by his legal team. During the non-jury trial, his barrister John Larkin KC pointed out there were no traces of explosives found either in Mr Granaghan's home or shed, or on clothes, tools and other items removed and forensically examined following his arrest. The defence also raised the conclusion by experts that it could not be proven when or how their client's DNA was deposited onto the wire - rendering this element of the Crown's evidence as 'wholly unsustainable.' Citing a complete absence of any other evidence - forensic or otherwise - linking Mr Granaghan to the device, the defence branded the Crown's case as 'inherently weak and speculative.' During Thursday's ruling, Mr Justice Fowler said: "Leaving aside the DNA, the defence say there is no evidence that the defendant had any involvement in making this explosive device. "Faced with this terminal defect in the prosecution case, the defence say the prosecution are forced to seek to reply on disparate sources of association evidence, in some way to support an inherently inadequate forensic DNA connection at the core of the prosecution case." Mr Justice Fowler said he had carefully considered all the Crown's evidence - and had also examined the evidence "pointing away from the defendant's guilt and casting doubt on the prosecution premise that the defendant's DNA was deposited by primary transfer when the device was being constructed." He added a "significant matter pointing away from" Mr Granaghan's involvement in making the device was expert evidence which confirmed there was a "reasonable possibility" his DNA could have been deposited by "tertiary transfer." Acquitting the 42-year old, Mr Justice Fowler said: "While the other circumstantial evidence may create the suspicion that the defendant was involved in this incident, no matter how strong the suspicion it's not sufficient to establish proof beyond reasonable doubt. "It's insufficient to persuade me beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was involved in the construction or preparation of this device - and accordingly I find the defendant not guilty on each count."
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