Northern Ireland

Three men remanded over ‘letter claiming responsibility for attack on DCI John Caldwell

The men appeared before Londonderry Magistrates’ Court (PA)
The men appeared before Londonderry Magistrates’ Court (PA) The men appeared before Londonderry Magistrates’ Court (PA)

Three men have been remanded in custody on charges around a claim of responsibility by a dissident republican group for the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

It centres around a written claim of responsibility for the attack, which also contained a threat to police, purportedly from the New IRA which was placed on a wall on Central Drive in Derry.

Mr Caldwell was shot a number of times in front of his son at a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in February.

Police officer shot in Omagh
Police officer shot in Omagh PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times (Brian Lawless/PA)

William McDonnell, 36, of Balbane Pass, Derry, Caolan Brogan, 23, of Bluebellhill Gardens, Derry, and Tiarnan McFadden, 25, of Carnhill, Derry, have all been charged with possession of articles for use in terrorism.

It is contended they were involved with placing the claim of responsibility on the wall on the evening of February 26.

Police evidence includes CCTV, aerial surveillance and telecommunications.

A detective constable told the court he believed he could connect the accused to the charge.

He said police objected to bail for the three men due to a risk of reoffending and potential interference with the ongoing investigation in terms of attempts to destroy evidence, adding the probe is part of a wider investigation into the attempted murder of Mr Caldwell.

A lawyer acting for McDonnell said the case against his client is “very, very weak indeed”, said he would be willing to comply with bail conditions and had caring responsibilities for his parents.

The same lawyer, who also acted for Brogan, said CCTV evidence linking his client is “not strong” and “carries difficulty with identification” given the alleged incident happened at night.

He said Brogan works as a production operator at an engineering firm and being denied bail will put that job in jeopardy, and he would accept any bail conditions.

The lawyer also queried police evidence about when the claim of responsibility was placed on the wall, contending “there is no way of knowing when exactly the letter was posted on the wall”.

A lawyer acting for McFadden said the evidence against his client relies on “covert officers on the ground, covert officers in the sky and vehicle-identifying equipment”.

But he contended that all the evidence shows is his client in the company of his usual social circle.

He said that McFadden is a member of IRWPA, a welfare group for prisoners, and regularly maintains a notice board at Central Drive, removing graffiti.

“For all the singing and dancing about men flying in the air, men hiding around the area, there is not a shred of evidence as to how long this sign has been on this wall,” he said.

“There is no evidence that this page is effectively from the New IRA … God knows who stuck that page to the wall … there is no evidence as to who, what, where, why, when that was put on to the wall and if it is authentic.”

District Judge Barney McElholm said it was an “extremely serious matter”, concerning the “heinous attack on Mr Caldwell in front of his son and other young children”.

He refused applications for bail for the three men on the grounds of a risk of a “fear of further offending”, adding: “Clearly these people are closely associated with organisations who have no respect for the law.

“At this stage there remains the possibility of interference with the course of an investigation.

“But the fear of further offending is what is uppermost. So for that reason I am refusing bail in each case.”

The men are due to appear in court again via video link on August 3.

Earlier this week three men were remanded into custody after appearing before Dungannon Magistrates’ Court on charges in connection with the attempted murder of Mr Caldwell.

In May, seven men were remanded after appearing at the same court on similar charges.

Mr Caldwell spent several weeks in intensive care following the attack on February 22.

He was seen in public for the first time since the incident at a garden party at Royal Hillsborough in May, during a visit by the King and Queen, where he had a private audience with Charles.