Northern Ireland

'Lone wolf republican' Connor jailed for 16 years

Christine Connor Image copyright Justin Kernoghan
Image caption Three of the charges relate to a bomb attack on a police vehicle in May 2013

A woman described as a lone-wolf dissident republican, has been jailed for 16 years and four months for attempting to murder police officers.

Christine Connor, 31, posed as a Swedish model online to lure men into helping her plot to kill police officers.

She pleaded guilty to a number of terror offences last month.

Three of the charges related to a homemade grenade thrown at a police vehicle in May 2013.

She had previously claimed to be "at war" with the PSNI.

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Media captionRecording of hoax 999 call made by Christine Connor claiming domestic violence

Belfast Crown Court had heard that Connor, from north Belfast, twice lured police patrols to a house in the Crumlin Road area of the city in May 2013 by claiming that a woman living there was in danger.

In the first attack, on 16 May, no officer was injured, although the bombs did detonate.

She also threw two home-made grenades at police 12 days later, injuring one policeman.

She pleaded guilty to six charges, including attempted murder.

Image caption Detectives found another mobile phone, SIM cards and a laptop computer stuffed inside the mattress of a bed at Connor's home

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said Connor was "not aligned" to any dissident republican organisations and acted alone.

Speaking after she was sentenced, police said Connor was "a dangerous woman who exploited others to further her own twisted ideologies".

'Very cunning'

Det Supt Richard Campbell said: "She was very cunning and duped a number of men through fake profile images on social media to become involved in her terrorist aspirations."

The detective said Connor used online photographs of Swedish model, fashion designer and blogger Sanne Alexandra Andersson without her knowledge or consent. These bore no resemblance to Christine.

He said Stuart Downes, 31, from Meole Brace in Shrewsbury, played a key part in the attack.

He had been due to stand trial, but killed himself.

Zachary Gevelinger, an American, was arrested by police after he visited Christine in Hydebank Prison on 6 July 2013.

Det Supt Campbell said police found correspondence and cheques that he had sent Connor.

He, also, took his own life.

Image copyright PSNI
Image caption Connor's gloves were also found close to the scene of the attack

"We know she communicated with these men via a 'United Struggle' Facebook page she created - for her one member organisation," said Det Supt Campbell.

"Neither of these men, who are now both deceased, had previous connections to Northern Ireland or to Northern Ireland related terrorism."

'Web of deceit'

He said Connor planned her attack in a meticulous way and used a "web of deceit" to enlist the help of Stuart Downes.

A police officer who was injured when one of Connor's grenades landed at his feet said he felt "lucky to be alive".

He said he heard the device landing at his feet: "My adrenalin kicked in and I started running away but tripped and fell just as the first device exploded.

"I saw someone coming towards me and a second device hitting the ground near me. I got up and ran into an alleyway just as this device exploded.

"I remember the noise was deafening and there was a lot of smoke."

In court, Connor admitted:

  • Preparing terrorist acts between February 2013 and May 2013
  • Possessing explosives with intent to endanger life
  • Causing an explosion on two dates in May 2013 and attempting to murder a police officer

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