Northern Ireland

Man charged in connection with the attempted murder of John Caldwell is bailed

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell

A man who allegedly sourced and stored one of the cars used in the plot to assassinate a senior PSNI detective is to be released on bail, a High Court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice O’Hara held that John Gallagher, 45, was in a different position to others charged in connection with the attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

He said: “The applicant’s involvement in the supply of a car which appears to have been used in this attempted murder is highly suspicious, but on the basis of what I have heard this may well not be the full story.

“It may turn out to be less sinister than is suggested currently.”

DCI Caldwell was shot repeatedly in front of his son just after he finished coaching a youth football team at sports facilities in Omagh on February 22 this year.

The gunmen made their getaway in a Ford Fiesta discovered on fire later that night.

Although the New IRA claimed responsibility for the shooting, police suspect other criminal factions assisted in targeting someone regarded as their joint enemy.

Detectives believe three cars were used in the operation, including a second Ford Fiesta transported to Omagh for an unattributed role in the build up to the shooting.

Gallagher, of Church Drive in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, denies a charge of preparation of terrorist acts by sourcing and storing that car.

He faces further counts of possessing articles and providing the Fiesta for the purposes of terrorism.

Prosecutors claim two other men played roles in having the car driven from Belfast towards the location for the attack.

A further seven men have been charged with the attempted murder of DCI Caldwell, who spent nearly two months recovering in hospital.

Ruling on Gallagher’s application to be released from custody, the judge said he has no apparent links to either dissident republicanism or organised crime.

He also distinguished the defendant from co-accused whose alleged roles were “more central and of greater concern”.

The judge banned Gallagher from entering Omagh and ordered him to allow police full access to his mobile phone as part of strict terms of bail.

Mr Justice O’Hara also told him: “You are not to attempt to see, speak to, or in any other way contact DCI Caldwell directly or indirectly.” ends