Northern Ireland news

Co Armagh man Sean McVeigh found guilty of attempted murder of police officer with under-car bomb

Sean McVeigh has been convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer in Eglinton, Co Derry on June 18 2015

A Co Armagh man has been found guilty of trying to kill a police officer at his home by planting a lethal booby-trap bomb under his car.

Sean McVeigh (38), of Victoria Street in Lurgan, had denied the attempted murder in Eglinton, Co Derry in June 2015 during his non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court.

McVeigh also denied possession of the under-vehicle improvised explosive device.

But giving his ruling yesterday, Judge Stephen Fowler said he was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt'' that McVeigh was the man who planted the device.

He rejected defence arguments that traces of RDX explosives found on his clothing were from an "innocent contamination'', as well as suggestions that the device was not capable of detonation and could have been an elaborate hoax.

The trial judge said it was a fully functioning device containing 322 grammes of Semtex explosives with RDX being the main component.

A field test conducted on a similar model of car "showed that anyone sitting on the driving seat would have sustained serious and possibly fatal injuries".

The judge said he was "satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that this was a viable device" and it was intended "to kill the driver once the vehicle was moved".

It was the prosecution case that McVeigh was part of a joint enterprise with others to try to kill the police officer by planting the device under his Ford Mondeo, parked in the driveway of his home.

His wife, also a serving police officer, told detectives she was asleep but woke up and looked out of her bedroom window and spoke of her "sheer disbelief" on seeing a "skinny man" attaching an object to her husband's car.

She said she rapped so hard on the bedroom window that it bruised her knuckles, adding that he "must have croaked himself" because he immediately "legged it... took to his heels" down the driveway, turned right and got into a waiting dark car.

She immediately rang police who despatched three response vehicles.

The judge heard evidence from other officers who said they spotted two cars "travelling in convoy'' from the Waterside towards the cityside of Derry.

One said he received a message to go to the Foyle Bridge and set up a checkpoint and was in the process of doing so when two cars approached.

"I stepped out into the middle of the road with my torch. I then realised the vehicles were travelling at a really, really excessive speed and I was going to be able to stop them so I stepped off the road."

One was later found abandoned by gardaí near Lifford, Co Donegal.

The other was spotted by a specialist Garda armed response unit who blocked its path outside the village of Killygordon.

McVeigh was sitting in the front passenger seat.

RDX explosive traces were found on his black outer jacket and tracksuit bottoms and further traces on swabs taken from the car.

McVeigh was arrested but refused to answer questions and was later granted bail.

The trial heard that he was finally arrested by PSNI detectives on a Lurgan-bound train almost a year later in May 2016.

Judge Fowler remanded him in custody to be sentenced at a later date.

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