Northern Ireland news

Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell jailed for 18 years for supplying bombs to dissident republicans

Ciaran Maxwell from Larne, Co Antrim

Former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell, who lived a double life as a bomb-maker for dissident republicans, has been jailed for 18 years at the Old Bailey for preparing terrorist acts after he stashed explosives at hides in England and Northern Ireland. 

Maxwell, from Larne in Co Antrim, stashed anti-personnel mines, mortars, ammunition and 14 pipe bombs - four of which were later used - in 43 purpose-built hides at eight locations.

Bomb-making materials were found in barrels and buckets buried in the ground as well as an adapted Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) pass card, a PSNI uniform and a police stab-proof vest.

 A police vest recovered from a hide in Capanagh Forest

The 31-year-old was with 40 Commando based at Norton Manor Camp in Taunton, Somerset, at the time of the offences, pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts between January 2011 and August last year, possessing images of bank cards for fraud and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

Maxwell was handed an 18-year jail term with another five years on licence.

He was given consecutive sentences of 18 months and two years respectively for possessing cannabis with intent to supply and possessing images of bank cards for fraud.

Maxwell, described by the judge as an "inveterate record-keeper", showed little emotion as the sentence was handed down.

Maxwell stashed ammunition and weapons in eight locations. A barrel containing bomb-making components was found at Carnfunnock Country Park in Co Antrim

He had appeared in court via video link from Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes.

The Old Bailey heard that the father-of-one researched targets and discussed plans to attack police stations and officers.

His plot, however, was foiled when members of the public stumbled across his weapons hides by chance.

DNA evidence found on parts of the haul led them to Maxwell, who was on the national database due to his alleged involvement in an unrelated assault case.

One of Maxwell's handwritten notes, recovered from hides at Powderham New Plantation. Among the headings are 'Make more caches' and 'Moving caches'

Paul Hynes QC, defending, told the court his client was not ideologically driven and would not have used violence for a cause.

He said it was Niall Lehd, said to be a member of the Continuity IRA (CIRA), who was the "instigator" of a joint venture with Maxwell, who had "no long-lasting republican ideology".

Maxwell denied joining the Royal Marines in 2010 with the intention of infiltrating them.

He claimed he faked his support for the dissidents' cause because he was "frozen" with fear and believed old connections wished "serious ill" on him and his extended family in Northern Ireland and England.

The court also heard that he had been brought up as a Catholic in the largely loyalist town of Larne and suffered a fractured skull as a 16-year-old when he was the victim of a sectarian attack.

Sue Hemming, head of the special crime and counter-terrorism division at the CPS, said: "The large amount of chemicals, explosives and components Maxwell stockpiled could have caused serious harm and Maxwell accepted by his plea that he intended to assist others to commit terrorist acts.

"During police interviews, Maxwell never fully explained the motives behind his actions, but the public is undoubtedly safer with these items out of circulation."

PSNI Detective Chief Inspector Gillian Kearney said Maxwell used his military know-how to accumulate and construct his devices, and described the infiltration of the military by a republican terrorist as "very unusual" and "certainly the first case of its kind in recent years".

Sentencing, Mr Justice Sweeney said: "I'm sure that you were and will remain motivated by dissident republican sympathies and a hostility to the UK."

Ciaran Maxwell posing with cannabis. The photograph was recovered from one of his memory cards

Among the items found in Maxwell's stashes:

• 14 pipe bombs - four of which have been deployed in Northern Ireland.
• two anti-personnel directional mines
• two explosively formed projectiles (‘EFPs’) one with explosive fill, one without
• 29 complete firing systems and 33 initiators including two military initiators
• 13 military ‘Igniter Safety Fuse Electric’ initiators
• three fully constructed improvised detonators and other components parts for improvised explosive devices (‘IEDs’)
• He had a handgun stored in a hide in Northern Ireland.


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