Raymond Johnston: Police appeal two years on from ‘brutal’ murder

Raymond Johnston Image copyrightJOHNSTON FAMILY

 

Police have renewed an appeal for information about the murder of Raymond Johnston in west Belfast on the second anniversary of his death.

The 28-year-old was shot in front of his partner and her 11-year-old child on 13 February 2018.

No-one has been charged with his murder.

At the time, police said they believed the dissident republican group Arm na Poblachta – the army of the republic – was behind the killing.

Det Ch Insp Darren McCartney said it only took 10 seconds “to take Raymond’s life and ruin the lives of all those who loved him”.

CCTV footage captured outside Mr Johnston’s home at the time shows two hooded men approaching the house at around 19:45 GMT and making their way inside.

Mr McCartney said one of the men was clearly armed with a weapon and both men emerged from the house within 10 seconds.

He said: “Did you see these two men, one of whom was wearing what is believed to have been a blue coat with fur around the hood and possibly a balaclava, enter Raymond’s home in Glenbawn Avenue?

“Did you see them get into a dark-coloured car and leave the Poleglass area at speed at around 20:00 GMT, after they shot Raymond?”

Police have also appealed for anyone who spoke to Mr Johnston or met him on the day of the murder to contact them on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 1192 13/02/18.

With many thanks to: BBC NewsNI for the original story 

CAR BOMB CHARGED RELEASED ON BAIL

A MAN charged over the discovery of a car bomb under a high ranking police officer’s car in Belfast has been released on bail by the Special Criminal Court.

A photograph of the under-car bomb placed under a high ranking member of the RUC/PSNI

IRA accused Paul Casey (49) was previously arrested by members of the Special Detective Unit (SDU) as part of a cross-border investigation. Casey, of Carton Court, Ballymun, Dublin is charged with IRA membership on August 20th, 2019. His co-accused, Robert O’Leary (41) with an address at Clancy Road, Finglas, is also charged with the same offence and was granted bail on August 26th by the three-judge non-jury court.

Casey was granted bail subject to a number of conditions including a ban on travelling to the North of Ireland. Both men were arrested in August by members of the Special Detective Unit in relation to an investigation into a bomb being placed under a serving RUC/PSNI officer’s vehicle at Shandon Park Glof Club on June 1st. The device was declared to be a “viable improvised explosive device”. The bomb was discovered a short distance from the RUC/PSNI headquarters and dissident republican group, the New IRA, claimed responsibility for the attack at the time.

With many thanks to: The Irish News for the original story 

The New IRA is back with a vengeance as political folly swings a wrecking ball through the Good Friday Agreement and the Peace Process

THE Troubles in Northern Ireland were meant to have been consigned to the dustbin of history but now there is a real risk that they could return with a vengeance.

In a disturbing indicator of this renewed friction, on Monday there was a bomb explosion at a road junction in Co Fermanagh, close to the border with the Irish Republic.

Aftermath of the Omagh Bombing in 1998 – the worst atrocity of the Troubles, perpetrated by the Real IRA, which murdered 29 people
A police robot device at the site of an explosive device used by dissident republicans in a failed bid to kill police officers in Co Armagh last month

Fortunately no one was injured, but the clear intention of the attack was to kill police officers and British Army personnel.

The terrorists had not only planted a hoax device nearby but had also given a telephone warning in an attempt to lure the security forces to the area.

This incident was just the latest in a lengthening catalogue of intimidation and butchery by dissident Irish Republicans, who have never accepted the peace process and yearn for the dark days of the armed struggle against British rule.

Their outlook is ruthlessly uncompromising. Their chosen tactics are assassinations, bombings, hijackings, and punishment beatings.

Only last week, in addition to the Fermanagh bomb, a Belfast man in his 40s had his legs shot in a paramilitary-style punishment shooting, while 54-year-old Malcolm McKeown, a known criminal with links to the loyalists, was shot six times at a petrol station in Co.Down.

According to the Public Prosecution Service, cases of violence in Northern Ireland are up six per cent in the last year.

Brutal sectarianism is also on the rise.

Lara McKee was a journalist murdered by the New IRA during a riot earlier this year

Bloodthirsty factions
On Monday, the Northern Irish police specifically put the blame for the Fermanagh border attack on either of two organisations: Continuity IRA and the larger, even more vicious New IRA.

Between them, these two tightly-knit groups — fuelled by an estimated £50million from organised crime, including drug-dealing and goods smuggling — are responsible for most of the Republican paramilitary activity over the last two decades.

This includes a spate of gun and bomb attacks on the police during riots in Londonderry last July, or the assassination of journalist Lyra McKee in the same city this April.

The New IRA is said to be well-equipped with weapons formerly used by the Provisionals, especially deadly Russian AK-47 assault rifles, alongside a plentiful supply of ammunition.

“These people are b******s to the core, and they are now actually getting harder to pin down. They’re armed and deadly and, yes, they’ve been showing their strength and fresh recruitment in recent months and weeks,” said a security source last year of the New IRA.

New figures released this week show that in the last three years, places of worship in Northern Ireland have been attacked 445 times.

This kind of turmoil is promoted by dissident groups, who dogmatically oppose all the steps towards the peace deal.

Steeped in the blood-soaked, hate-filled ideology of fundamentalist Republicanism, they refuse to embrace political dialogue and instead seek the triumph of their violent creed.

The Continuity IRA and the New IRA

The Continuity IRA was formed in 1986 after a split in the Republican movement triggered by the hardliners’ rejection of the leadership’s decision to engage in mainstream Irish politics.But it was not until 1994, when the main IRA formally declared a ceasefire, that Continuity IRA began its terrorist campaign, largely targeted at the police and British Army.Small in number, with an estimated membership of only between 50 and 150, the group’s effectiveness has been further weakened by informers and disputes.Nevertheless, Continuity IRA has sporadically perpetrated a series of attacks, most notably the fatal shooting in 2009 of Stephen Carroll, the first police officer to be killed by paramilitary activity since the Good Friday Agreement. The New IRA is seen by many as even more dangerous.It was created in 2012 by a merger of the ultra militant Real IRA and several other splinter outfits, including Republican Action against Drugs.The Real IRA was responsible for a bomb attack on the town of Omagh in 1998 which killed 29 people, the single worst atrocity in the history of the Troubles.Again, like Continuity IRA, the New IRA is small in numbers.In 2012 the police estimated that the group had no more than “250 and 300 military activists, backed up by associates.”It still has the capacity to inflict mayhem, as highlighted by its killing of two prison officers in 2016.
Politicians fuelling the flames
Tragically, the British and Ulster politicians are fuelling the flames of this worrying descent into criminal extremism.

One of the central pillars of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement was the establishment of democratic, power-sharing institutions which recognised the interests of both the Unionist and Nationalist identities in Northern Ireland.

But since January 2017, these institutions have been suspended because of a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein, the two largest parties in Ulster.

In this paralysing vacuum, reconciliation is undermined and the hardliners gain ground.

Forensic officers at the scene of a van bomb outside a court in Co. Derry in January this yearNo Deal divisions

After Monday’s attack in Fermanagh, the Deputy Chief Constable of Northern Stephen Martin was frank about the potential impact of the continuing stalemate.

“We need a society led by our politicians to absolutely set out, not just condemn, but to work together,” he said.

Martin added that things “are becoming more entrenched and the progress that has been made is slipping back a bit”.

The situation will become infinitely worse if the Tory party do not keep their promise of avoiding a Hard Border between the north and the south in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

British scum (troops) in Belfast in 1969 during so-called  sectarian riots in the city – authorities say progress made then is now ‘slipping backwards’ with the prospect of a NO DEAL BREXIT

Good Friday gambled
This week, the Chief Constable of Northern Ireland Simon Byrne went so far as to warn on the BBC that the fragile, uncertain political situation was becoming a “breeding ground for dissident hate” and that “speculation around different forms of Brexit” were heightening tensions.

As someone who grew up in Belfast at the height of the Troubles during the 1970s, I am dismayed at this political folly, which risks throwing away all that has been achieved since 1998.

The Good Friday Agreement was one of the most inspirational events of my lifetime, a historic moment when hands met across the divide.

A recent report from two academics for the Irish Parliament claimed that, thanks to more than two decades of relative peace, there is a danger of romanticising the Troubles and glamorising the historic violence.

Having grown up against the backdrop of bombings and intimidation, with troops and checkpoints on every urban street, there is no risk of that with me.

In the week of the 50th anniversary of Lord Mountbatten’s assassination, I cannot forget that one of my fellow school pupils was also killed on the boat.

There is nothing to look back on with nostalgia.

But all the signs are that the peace process is under threat.

Lord Mountbatten aboard the boat on which he was assassinated, the Shadow V – two teenagers and an elderly woman were also murdered in the blast
Cars burn during Nationalist rioting in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast in 2010 – so-called sectarian violence in the North of Ireland has increased in recent years
Rioting in Belfast in 2001 – the New IRA is said to exploit riots to target the RUC/PSNI

Unmatched terrorist threat
In December 2017, MI5 stated that Northern Ireland had the highest level of terrorist activity in Europe, with potential attacks occurring every week.

There is no sign of any let-up.

Only this week, Deputy Chief Constable Stephen Martin said that there had been at least five dissident attempts to murder police officers this year, like an incident in Craigavon in July, when the Continuity IRA unsuccessfully tried to use a booby trap bomb against a police patrol.

With many thanks to the: The Sun newspaper and Leo McKinstry  for the original story 

New IRA explanation of why Belfast car bomb failed to explode is waffle, says ex-senior officer

The New IRA were behind the device planted under a police officer’s car

A former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable has rubbished New IRA claims that a car bomb failed to explode because of the “level terrain” travelled by the policeman targeted in last Saturday’s attack.

Alan McQuillan dismissed reports that a device found under the vehicle of a senior officer at Shandon Park Golf Club in Belfast was a redesign of a Provisional IRA prototype.

“There are lots of reasons why it didn’t go off, but flat terrain is not one of them,” he said.

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“This is an act of maximum desperation to try and justify themselves by boasting of their capability, but in reality they haven’t proved to be that capable.

“To say this device is a redesign is just waffle.”

In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T. O’Neill, the ‘IRA’ said it planted the under-car bomb.

“The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” it read.

The newspaper also reported that it believes the device, which police have described as “sophisticated”, contained a motion-activated mercury tilt switch.

Such a device would require sudden movement in order to detonate.

“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on,” the sinister statement added.

“We were unlucky this time but we only have to be lucky once.”

However, Mr McQuillan said terrain has little to do with how the tilt mechanism functions, as he accused the dissident terror gang of lying.

Former PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Alan McQuillan

“It’s the motion of the vehicle which causes the switch to activate, so this suggestion doesn’t ring true,” he explained.

“The mercury in the glass capsule runs to one end and sets the bomb off — the motion can be caused by the car being on a hill, the brakes being applied or the accelerator.

“You’d have to drive extremely carefully for it to fail to explode.”

Mr McQuillan also dismissed reports that 1.5lbs of TNT used to make the device was sourced from US and Australian commercial organisations as “nothing new”.

“They have commercial contacts as a result of their drug dealing channels,” he added.

The security expert said the New IRA’s bravado is an attempt to save its own reputation following its first attack since the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.

The 29-year-old was shot dead by the group during rioting in Londonderry in April.

“People are fed up with them after Lyra and they know it,” Mr McQuillan said.

“Most people want nothing to do with them after the reckless killing of a young woman.”

However, Mr McQuillan conceded that the terror group should not be underestimated, despite being riddled with informants and under constant watch by the security services.

“These are experienced older people who are sending out very inexperienced younger people to do their dirty work,” he added.

“It’s this lack of experience that makes them very dangerous.

“But they’ve lost their leader Seamus McGrane and many more have been arrested.”

The Real IRA leader — whose group was a founding faction of the New IRA — was jailed in 2017 for planning an explosion during a visit of Prince Charles to Ireland in 2015.

He died behind bars last month.

Another security source, who described those behind the attack as “absolutely bloodthirsty”, believes that the device must have been old.

“That’s why it didn’t go off,” they said.

“Those behind it are very lucky they didn’t blow themselves up, but they will keep going until they are successful and beyond that.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Brett Campbell for the original story

TNT plastic explosives used in east Belfast bomb

A part of a device removed from a PSNI man’s car in East Belfast last weekend

A powerful plastic explosive is believed to have been used in the bomb planted under a PSNI officer’s car by the ‘IRA’ in east Belfast last weekend.

The senior officer escaped with his life after the device was spotted under his vehicle at Shandon Park Golf Club in Saturday afternoon.

In a statement the ‘IRA’ said it planted the potentially deadly device, which police later described as “sophisticated”.

It is believed the bomb consisted of 1 ½ lb of a plastic explosives known as TNT and a mercury tilt switch.

It was previously suspected that the ‘IRA’ had access to a quantity of TNT, which is used by both the US and Australian military and in commercial organisations.

It is considered to be safer to use than other types of explosives and less prone to accidental detonation.

Two cars linked to the attempted bomb attack in East Belfast were burnt out in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast

A haul of the substance was recovered after armed Gardaí stopped a taxi in Dublin in June 2017. More than 5kg of explosives, detonators and other military grade items were seized during the operation.

In the past republican groups have used Semtex to make undercar bombs and other devices.

However, the use of TNT suggests that new supply routes may have been established in recent years.

In February 2017 the ‘IRA’ said it used a “new type of tilt switch, detonator and plastic explosives” in a bomb which was left under the car of PSNI officer in the Culmore area of Derry.

It is understood the device used at the weekend is similar to those previously deployed by the Provisional IRA, although it is believed the design has been updated.

It is believed to consist of several switches and a pin, which is removed sets off a timer.

It is understood these features are designed to ensure that the device will not detonate while being handled by the bombers.

Over the last decade undercar devices have killed and injured several people.

In 2008 a Catholic officer was injured when a bomb exploded under his car as he drove to work near Castlederg.

In January 2010 former PSNI man Peadar Heffron was seriously injured when a bomb exploded under his car near Randalstown, Co Antrim.

More than a year later in April 2011 another Catholic officer Ronan Kerr died when a similar bomb exploded under his car in Omagh.

In June 2015 a device was found under a car outside the home of a couple, who were both PSNI officers, at Eglington near Derry.

In October that year a device was also placed under a VW Transporter used by a British soldier in north Belfast but fell off.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van as he drove through east Belfast.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly condemned those behind the attacks.

“I don’t know how they have not got the message they have no place and support in the community here in the north.”

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story

New IRA say they tried to kill PSNI officer

Pictures right, a part of a device removed from a car at Shandon Park Golf Club in East Belfast last weekend. One of the two cars involved in the attack was found burnt out in the Ardoyne area of Belfast

ThE ‘IRA’ has claimed responsibility for planting a bomb under the car of a PSNI officer last weekend.

The senior officer was lucky to escape with his life after the deadly device was discovered under his vehicle at Shandon Park Golf Club in east Belfast on Saturday afternoon.

The Irish News understands the bomb contained high powered plastic explosives.

The attempted attack was the first carried out by the ‘IRA’ – which is often referred to as the New IRA – since journalist Lyra McKee was shot dead by the group during a riot in Derry in April.

In a statement issued to the Irish News using a recognised code word and signed T. O’Neill, the ‘IRA’ said it planted the undercar bomb.

A part of a device removed from a car at Shandon Park Golf Club in East Belfast last weekend

“The IRA claims responsibility for the recent under car booby trap,” the statement said.

It is understood the device, which police have described as “sophisticated,” contained a mercury tilt switch, which is motion activated and normally requires a sudden movement to trigger an explosion.

“We are confident the device would have exploded if it was not for the level terrain it had travelled on,” the statement added.

“We were unlucky this time but we only have to be lucky once.”

Two cars which have been linked to the attempted bomb attack were found on fire in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast in the early hours of Saturday morning.

A cross border probe was launched after it emerged that one of the vehicles was fitted with Dublin number plates.

SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said that the potentially deadly attack was discussed during both public and private sessions when the board met yesterday.

“It’s deeply concerning,” she said.

“There is a broad (feeling) that the police officer was very lucky,” she said.

“It was intended to kill, it was not one that was going to injure you.”

Ms Kelly said there was little support for such action.

“The message form everyone in the community is loud and clear – these people have no support,” he said.

Shandon Park Golf Club is located close to the PSNI’s headquarters at Knock and the intended target was said to be badly shaken by the attempt on his life.

Under car devices have been used to deadly effect by the ‘IRA’ in the past.

In March 2016 prison officer Adrian Ismay died 11 days after a bomb exploded under his van as he drove through east Belfast.

With many thanks to: The Irish News and Connla Young for the original story

Senior Police Officer Cheats Death In Undercar Bomb Device Murder Bid

POLICE have launched a murder bid probe after a senior PSNI officer found a booby trap bomb under his car while off duty at a golf club in east Belfast.

Shortly before 1pm this afternoon, Saturday 01 June, a suspicious object was detected under a serving police officer’s car in Shandon Park in east Belfast.

Ammunition Technical Officers were called to the scene and, following examination, they have declared it to be a viable improvised explosive device.

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright, Head of Terrorism Investigation Unit, said: “It is very fortunate that this device was detected before it exploded and that no one was killed or seriously injured.

“It was clearly intended to kill the police officer. In placing such a device, terrorists have also put the officer’s family, neighbours and members of the public at serious risk.

“Attacks on police officers are attacks on the entire community and they are an attack on our democracy.

“Anyone who places an explosive device under a car in a built up area cares little about our communities.

“Their reckless violence cannot be allowed to continue.

“There are people within our communities who know who did this and there are people out there who knew this was being planned.

“There are also people out there who know those who are members of terrorist groups.

“My plea to all of those people is to tell us what they know and by doing so they will help to prevent this small minority dragging us back to the past.

“Our belief is that this attempted murder was carried by violent dissident republicans.

“They don’t care who they attack, they don’t care who they kill. They are simply anti-peace and anti-democracy.

“The community can be assured that the Police Service of Northern Ireland will do everything possible within the law to bring those responsible to justice.

“However, it is very important that we get information about this incident quickly.

“We need support from members of the public in bringing those responsible to justice.”

With many thanks to the: Belfast Daily for the original story