Northern Ireland men appear in court on terrorism charges over PSNI DCI John Caldwell murder attempt

Three men have been remanded in custody after appearing in court on charges in connection with the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell. Mr Caldwell was left seriously injured after being shot a number of times at a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone in February. Appearing at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court via videolink, Tony Slevin, 47, of Derryloughan Avenue, Coalisland, was charged with preparation of terrorist acts.

John Gallagher, 45, of Church Drive, Newtownabbey, and James McSorley, 58, of Chichester Mews, Belfast, were also charged with preparation of terrorist acts as well as possession of articles for use in terrorism and providing property for the purpose of terrorism.

The charges centre around the acquisition and movements of a Ford Fiesta car which police contend was part of the attempt to kill the senior detective. All three men indicated they understood the charges as they were read to them. A PSNI detective inspector said he believed he could connect the accused with the charges. Separate lawyers for the three men each challenged the connection being made by police between the evidence and their clients. Police contend two blue Ford Fiesta cars were involved in the operation around the attempted murder of Mr Caldwell. One transported the gunmen from the scene and was later found burned out. The second Fiesta was also found burned out at a later date. Counsel for Mr McSorley put to the detective inspector in court that police are not able to say exactly what direct role the second Fiesta played in the attack on Mr Caldwell. The detective said that car was seen with the first Fiesta which was used in the attack, had been fitted with new registration plates, transported to Co Tyrone and destroyed. However, he said the “exact specific nature” of what it was used for “may not be entirely defined but it is certainly the police case that it was instrumental and used in the attack”.

District Judge Michael Ranaghan rose to consider the arguments. After returning, he described having heard about a “complex and intricate police investigation” which “encompasses numerous strands of evidence”. He said the case being built against the three accused is a “circumstantial case”, involving a “web of evidence”, and noted police cannot say what specific use the second Ford Fiesta car had in the attack on Mr Caldwell but he said the evidence he had heard was “sufficient for the purpose of connection”. Lawyers for Mr Slevin and Mr McSorley made applications for bail for their clients. The detective inspector said police opposed bail for the men, and said that potential evidence in the case had been destroyed, including cars set alight and CCTV interfered with, as well as difficulty getting co-operation from the local community. He said for Mr McSorley he believed there was a risk of reoffending, contending he had a “key role in a terrorist operation” and there was a flight risk. In relation to Mr Slevin, the detective inspector also said there was a risk of reoffending and a flight risk, alleging he was part of a terrorist operation. The judge refused bail for both applicants. He said his decision was based on the nature of the alleged offences and a risk of further offending. An application for bail for Mr Gallagher is set to be made next week. In May, seven men appeared at the same court on charges in connection with the attempted murder of Mr Caldwell. Mr Caldwell was seriously injured when he was shot several times at a sports centre in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in February after coaching a youth sports team. He was with his son loading footballs into the boot of his car when he was shot. The senior detective spent several weeks in intensive care after the shooting. He had led a number of high-profile PSNI investigations in Northern Ireland. In May, he was seen in public for the first time since the incident, at a garden party in Royal Hillsborough during a visit by the King and Queen, where he had a private audience with Charles. He spoke in public when he was presented with the special recognition award at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards on Friday night.

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