Northern Ireland

Police ‘fear another attack on DCI Caldwell’ bail hearing told

DCI John Caldwell was shot earlier this year. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA
DCI John Caldwell was shot in February 2023. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA

A court heard on Tuesday that police fear there is a high risk of a second attack on Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

The remarks came during a successful bail application at Omagh Magistrates Court where a man accused in connection with the gun attack last year secured bail.

Eight men are currently charged with attempting to murder DCI Caldwell who was shot on 22 February last year while coaching a youth football team at the Omagh Youth Sport Complex.

They are Robert McLean (29) of Deveney Park, Omagh, James Ivor McLean (72) of the same address, Matthew McLean (33), Glenpark Road, Omagh, Jonathan McGinty (28) of St Julians Downs, Omagh, Brian Carron (38) of Claremount Drive, Coalisland, Gavin Coyle (45) of Killybrack Mews, Omagh,  Alan McFarland (47) of Deverney Park, Omagh and mostly recently charged Alan Lundy of Flax Street in Belfast.

In addition James Gerard McSorley (58) from Chichester Mews, Belfast, John Andrew Gallagher (45) from Church Drive, Newtownabbey and Tony Thomas Slevin (47) from Derryloughan Road, Coalisland are charged with preparing for acts of terrorism in relation to a Ford Fiesta believed to have been used in the attack.

After the shooting, the assailants fled in a blue Ford Fiesta, which was later found burnt out near Racolpa Road in Omagh.

They then switched to a black Mercedes which travelled to Deverney Park where they entered the rear of a house before leaving again in a white Transit Van.

Both weapons used in the attack are still unaccounted for.

Lawyers for McFarland mounted his first bail application which the prosecution opposed, explaining  he is suspected of being involved in the supply of vehicles to other participants

While it is accepted he wasn’t involved in the shooting, “The allegation is joint enterprise. The defendant went to the same school as DCI Caldwell and would be aware of his routine including on the night in question. In police estimation there is a high risk of another attempt on DCI Caldwell’s life.”

The court heard McFarland was present at an auction when a Ford Fiesta was purchased to “oversee the sale and ensure it was acquired.”

When arrested three particles of cartridge discharge residue (CDR) were found on his right hand matching that found on DCI Caldwell. Particles were also found in his jacket pocket and the car in which he was travelling.

While a detective sergeant was unable to confirm that McFarland had, unlike some other accused, provided the access code to his phone, the defence insisted this was correct as it was discussed during police interview.

The defence added McFarland, “Made it clear he has no truck with any terrorists including the IRA … He disavowed violence in his police interviews. I don’t dispute for one minute this was a very serious attack, but seriousness is not a factor in respect of bail. I appreciate a circumstantial case can become the strongest but sometimes it can lead a false trail. There is a danger of a person being in the same circles as others who police believe were involved in this terrible attack.”

Deputy District Judge Peter Prenter described the objections as “fairly generic” and decided bail could be granted which he set at £500.

McFarland is to reside at an address approved by police, have no contact with the co-accused, refrain from entering CoTyrone and any phone must be registered with police.

The prosecution indicated their intention to appeal the decision.

The case is listed for review on February 27.