Glasgow & West Scotland

Muirhead and McKenzie jailed for Neil Lennon parcel bomb plot

Media captionMuirhead and McKenzie's sentences were backdated to May 2011

Two men who sent suspect packages to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two high-profile fans of the club have each been jailed for five years.

Trevor Muirhead, 44, and Neil McKenzie, 42, from North Ayrshire, sent devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing injury.

The men were found guilty of conspiracy to assault Mr Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late Paul McBride QC.

Sentence on both men was backdated to May 2011.

Judge Lord Turnbull told the pair that he understood they had a good working history and family support.

'Criminal conduct'

He said: "It is incomprehensible that two such family men in their forties would engage in such reckless and serious forms of criminal conduct.

"Even the sending of a parcel bomb as a hoax would always be a serious offence that would in itself be likely to end in a custodial sentence."

He told them: "It is immediately obvious that we were not dealing with what would properly be thought of as acts of terrorism in any sense at all."

Image caption Neil Lennon, Trish Godman and the late Paul McBride were all sent suspect packages

Lord Turnbull said the evidence at the trial "made it clear beyond any doubt that the devices...could not have exploded."

He went on to say that was because there was not enough "explosive material" and "there was no form of detonator or other method" to blow them up.

The judge said: "It follows, therefore, despite believing the devices were capable of igniting and exploding the evidence made it perfectly clear they could not in fact do so, the intent could not have been achieved, there was no risk of injury to anyone beyond accidental contact with the nails present."

He jailed both Muirhead and McKenzie for five years and McKenzie for another 18 months on the charge one of sending a hoax bomb, but ordered he serve it concurrently.

The men's trial at the High Court in Glasgow heard that the first parcel was discovered on 4 March 2011 soon after a much-publicised confrontation between Mr Lennon and now Rangers FC manager Ally McCoist at an Old Firm match.

Later that month it emerged that a second parcel had been sent to the Celtic manager at the club's training ground in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire.

The brown padded envelope was intercepted at the Royal Mail sorting office in Kirkintilloch on 26 March last year when a postman spotted a nail protruding from it.

Building evacuated

It tested positive for peroxide, which can be used to make explosives.

Two days later, on 28 March, a package delivered to Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, caused the evacuation of the building.

Jurors heard that liquid inside a plastic bottle within the package had tested positive for the explosive substance triacetone triperoxide.

Before the incident, Ms Godman, who was Labour MSP for West Renfrewshire, had worn a Celtic top to the Scottish Parliament as a "dare for charity" on the final day before Holyrood was due to dissolve, pending the elections.

On the same day as the package was delivered to the former MSP, a package destined for Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland) in Glasgow was in the postal system.

Image caption A suspect package was also sent to Cairde na hEireann (Friends of Ireland)

A postman had tried to deliver the package to the republican organisation at the Gallowgate on 28 March.

After failed attempts to do so then, and on the following day, it was sent to Royal Mail's National Returns Centre in Belfast.

The package was X-rayed and found to contain nails, a watch component, a bottle and a wire. It was also said to hold potentially explosive peroxide.

The following month, a Royal Mail delivery driver found a suspicious package addressed to Mr McBride at the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh, which contained a bottle of petrol.

It was collected from a postbox in Kilwinning on 15 April last year. The package was found to contain nails and a wire.

A-Team claim

Mr McBride was known to have represented Mr Lennon and Celtic.

The trial heard that none of the devices sent was viable but prosecutors argued that both accused believed four of them were capable of exploding or igniting.

McKenzie told police he had learned how to make a hoax bomb by watching the 1980s TV show The A-Team.

One package did not have enough stamps, another smelt of petrol and a third had a wire which fell out.

Police bugged their car and heard them complain that they were not a couple of "daft hillbillies".

But the prosecution argued that packages containing explosive substances could not be regarded as hoaxes.

Muirhead, from Kilwinning, and McKenzie, from Saltcoats, both North Ayrshire, were originally accused of conspiring to murder their targets but that charge was thrown out due to insufficient evidence.

Following a five-week trial, a jury of 11 women and four men found the pair guilty by majority verdict of the conspiracy to assault charge.

McKenzie was also found guilty of dispatching an item on 3 March to Mr Lennon at Celtic Park with the intention of inducing him to believe it would "explode or ignite".

Muirhead was cleared of this charge after the jury returned a not proven verdict.

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