Northern Ireland

PSNI murder plot discussion 'recorded by MI5'

Colin Duffy Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Colin Duffy, 51, is accused of preparing and directing terrorism and being in the IRA

An undercover MI5 agent has told a court of how recordings were made of three men allegedly discussing a failed murder attempt on police.

Colin Duffy, 51, Henry Fitzsimons, 50, and 57-year-old Alex McCrory are on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

They face a range of terrorist-related offences connected to a gun attack on the PSNI in 2013.

All three men deny preparing and directing terrorism and being in the IRA.

Mr Fitzsimons and Mr McCrory also deny attempting to murder police and possession of two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

The charges relate to a gun attack on a police convoy in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on 5 December 2013.

On Tuesday, the court heard evidence from the MI5 officer, known as witness 9281, on video and audio surveillance carried out on three men in December 2013.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Harry Fitzsimons, 50, is accused of attempting to murder members of the PSNI

However, before the witness was sworn in, defence lawyers said they would be seeking to exclude three audio exhibits.

They said the exhibits were at the centre of the prosecution case.

Speaking from behind a curtain, the MI5 officer said he placed 15 audio devices at a park in Lurgan in December 2013.

The security service officer also confirmed he placed video recording equipment and that its images were transmitted directly to MI5.

'Grounds of national security'

He was asked by a defence lawyer about a statement he made saying he replaced one of the audio devices.

However, in cross-examination, he said he placed all 15 audio devices at the same time.

When asked about the technical details of the devices and their recording capabilities, he replied a number of times: "I am not sure I can answer that on the grounds of national security."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Alex McCrory, 57, is accused of attempting to murder members of the PSNI

The judge, sitting without a jury in the Diplock-style trial, has heard the surveillance operation was carried out the day after the gun attack on a police convoy in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast, in which 14 shots were fired at a three-vehicle patrol by two gunmen.

At an earlier hearing, the prosecution claimed the accused can be identified from the covert video footage and from an hour-long audio recording of them as they talked in a public park in Lurgan, known as Demesne Park.

Prosecution case

It is the prosecution's case that an analysis of the audio recordings by two voice recognition experts provided strong to moderately strong support that the defendants were those captured discussing how to go forward "in light of Ardoyne, and how the leadership were regrouping".

The prosecution lawyer further alleged this was supported by the video recordings, as the clothing worn by the three suspects in the Demense Park were similar to that seized from the defendants following their arrests.

"The prosecution case is that the three men present and recorded talking in Demense Lane are Duffy, Fitzsimons and McCrory," counsel claimed.

"The three defendants are close associates and have been seen together by police prior to the meeting and are also friends," added the lawyer, who further claimed the men spoke using their first names.

Further proof

The voice analysis evidence of the conversation, which the prosecution alleged was not a "normal one" as it involved "an operation which had not gone to plan, and the failings and difficulties in arming a terrorist organisation", was further proof of the men's guilt.

The prosecution told the court the men's discussions lasted almost an hour and "related almost exclusively to terrorism... there was no discussion about everyday issues".

The trial continues.

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