Northern Ireland

'Clothing link' to 1998 mortar attack on police station

A man charged with a failed bomb attack on a Newry police station is linked to the incident through clothing abandoned at the scene, his trial has been told.

Gary Jones, from Castlekeel, denies involvement in the 1998 mortar bomb attack on Corry Square police station.

Belfast Crown Court heard the 43-year-old's DNA was found on a jumper taken from a suspect as he fled the scene.

The prosecution claimed the chances that the DNA did not come from Mr Jones were "less than one in a billion".

At the opening of the non-jury trial on Tuesday, prosecuting lawyer Kate McKay said the court would hear evidence that the blood-stained jumper was retrieved from the driver of the van which contained the mortar device.

'Struggle'

She said the driver wriggled out of the garment during an altercation with a member of the public who had challenged him after witnessing a collision between the van and a parked car.

Ms McKay said the man who worked nearby saw the white transit van hit the other vehicle as it was driven into what was locally known as the "old Dunnes car park" at Corry Square.

She said the witness "decided to remonstrate with the man he saw coming from the direction of the van" adding that when he tried to stop the driver, "there was a struggle and the man wriggled out of his outer clothing".

The judge was told that while police officers were investigating the minor car accident, they "heard a loud explosion and there was a mortar seen to launch from the transit van".

The mortar, a large gas cylinder, landed a few yards away and did not explode.

Ms McKay said the failed device had been fired in the direction of Corry Square police station.

She suggested that the court could infer from the behaviour of the man who left his clothing at the scene that "he knew there was an explosive device about to detonate".

The accused denies charges of acting with intent to cause an explosion and possessing the improvised mortar system with intent to endanger life on 21 July 1998.

The trial is expected to last for two weeks.