Northern Ireland

Police in Moffett murder seize gun and PSNI uniform

Laganside Court

A man has appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court charged with possessing a ball bearing gun and a police uniform for use in terrorism.

The items were seized when officers investigating the murder of Bobby Moffett searched the home of Norman Mawhinney, 25.

A detective constable told the court there was no direct link between the charge and the killing, but said further inquiries were taking place.

Mr Mawhinney was released on bail.

The court heard that the items were seized three days after Mr Moffett, 43, was shot on Shankill Road.

Opposing bail, the officer claimed Mawhinney's release could have "a whole host of implications" for his safety and the community.

"We are trying to avoid any further trouble within that area of Belfast," he said.

The officer said a current PSNI issue uniform of hat, jumper and trousers was recovered along with the BB gun and holster.

"I can think of no other reason to have those items within a house other than for a nefarious purpose," he told the court.

"As far as we are concerned there is a connection with a proscribed organisation and that is our belief what they were for."

During cross-examination defence barrister Mark Farrell said the allegation was being made against Mawhinney because police could not charge him with murder or assisting offenders.

"This man is not charged with that, but you go to his house and find a number of items which may or may not be incriminating."

According to Mr Mawhinney the uniform was bought at a market for a fancy dress party, while the gun and balaclava were used for hunting and shooting, Mr Farrell said.

He told the detective: "You don't have a shred of evidence to support your proposition that this man would use these items for terrorism purposes other than your intelligence.

"I'm going to suggest to you in the absence of any real evidence this man is guilty of this offence that bail should be granted."

District Judge Fiona Bagnall agreed to release Mr Mawhinney, of Ainsworth Avenue, on bail to live at an address in the Shankill area.

He was also ordered to report three times a week to police and put up his own surety of £500.