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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
With many thanks to: BBCNI and Dan Stanton for the original story
THE British army had secretly bugged a car belonging to a dissident suspect on the night he was allegedly involved in the murder of police constable Stephen Carroll.
However, it can now be revealed that evidence from the bugging device was later destroyed while held inside a supposedly secure compound at an army base.
Constable Stephen Carroll became the first member of the PSNI to be murdered after he was shot while responding to a 999 call in Craigavon on the night of March 9, 2009.
The killing came just 48 hours after Real IRA gunmen had shot dead two soldiers at Massereene army barracks in County Antrim. For sometime beforehand the authorities had warned of a rising threat emanating from the various dissident Republican groupings.
Three days before Constable Carroll’s murder, then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde had announced that he had called in an undercover British army unit to help police target dissident republicans.
He said that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, based at the SAS headquarters in Hereford, England, would increase the PSNI’s “technical ability” but would have “no operation role.”
Orde’s decision raised issues for members of the Northern Ireland Police Board.
The SDLP said the deployment of the undercover unit had raised “the issue of who is in control” of intelligence in Northern Ireland, while Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, said it had shaken his confidence in the chief constable.
The Continuity IRA’s killing of Constable Carroll was viewed as a direct challenge to Hugh Orde and the security services.
Within 48 hours the PSNI had arrested a number of suspects
One of those arrested was 17 year-old John Paul Wooton.
The teenager’s Citroen Saxo car was seized by the PSNI at the same time.
Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville was another of those questioned.
Both men were later charged with the policeman’s murder.
In court, prosecution lawyers would later allege that Wooton’s car had been parked 150 yards from the scene of the shooting and had driven off within minutes of the killing.
McConville’s DNA is alleged to have been found on a jacket recovered from the boot of Wooton’s car, which prosecutors claim also contained gun residue from the murder weapon.
One witness claimed to have seen McConville close to the scene of the shooting before the attack.
Another claimed that she had witnessed Wooton’s car parked outside McConville’s home on the morning after the attack.
It can now be revealed that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment had been covertly bugging Wooton’s car and tracking its movements on the night of Constable Carroll’s murder.
But alarmingly, army chiefs have admitted in court that data from the device used to track the getaway car on the morning after the shooting was inexplicably destroyed.
In May 2010 a soldier from SRR made a statement to police confirming that it had Wotton’s car under constant surveillance, including the night of the policeman’s murder.
According to a witness statement seen by The Detail, the undercover soldier, whose identity has never been revealed, told detectives:
“I am in the British army, `PIN 8625’.
“I was asked to deploy a vehicle tracking device against J.P. Wooton’s vehicle, which was a gold coloured Saxo registration number FCZ 9046.’’
The level of undercover surveillance targeting Wooton was at such a level that the tracking device was programmed to send a signal from the teenager’s car via satellite every two minutes.
“Once the device was deployed, my role was to retrieve the data from the vehicle tracking device,’’ he said.
The device, understood to have been hidden in the engine of Wooton’s car, transmitted coded data back to an undisclosed army base, where SRR was secretly monitoring his movements.
Two days after Constable Carroll’s murder `PIN 8625’ was ordered to go to Maydown PSNI station on the outskirts of Derry where the teenager’s car had been taken following his arrest.
He recovered the tracking device and brought it back to SRR’s undisclosed base somewhere in Northern Ireland.
In January this year, `PIN8625’ became the first member of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to give evidence in court since Sir Hugh’s announcement that he was deploying the specialist undercover unit to Northern Ireland in March, 2007.
His evidence went unnoticed as no members of the media were present in court for his testimony.
However, The Detail, has now obtained copies of his original statement to police and a transcript of his evidence to the court.
“I removed the vehicle tracking device from the Saxo and brought it back to my base,’’ he told police.
“I put the device into the storage area at the base.’’
He said that the potentially incriminating evidence contained on the tracking device was allowed to sit unsecured on a bench inside the army base while he went on extended leave.
“I returned to work six days later and discovered that all the data had been wiped off the vehicle tracking device which I had deployed against the Citroen Saxo.’’
However when he appeared in court, the undercover soldier claimed that only part of the evidence had been destroyed.
Speaking from behind a curtain, `PIN8625’ confirmed that data from the device had been wiped, despite being held in a supposedly secure army compound.
“ I was asked to look and see if the information was still there, which it wasn’t,’’ he said.
“You were hoping to retrieve the material right up until the car was recovered by the police on 10 March, is that right?’’ McConville’s solicitor Peter Corrigan asked:
Q: “And were you able to obtain all that?
Q: “You were unable to retrieve it because someone had wiped the device is that correct?
Q: “Who wiped it?
A: “I don’t know.’’
Q: “Were you concerned that the device had been wiped?
A: “ It was unfortunate the device had been wiped but the details covering the event had been retrieved.’’
Q: “ So is it your evidence, is it, that all information up until the vehicle was taken by police was retrieved?
A: “The dates are on the download, I can’t remember. The last download would give you the date and time of the last fix.’’
Q: “You were aware that there was a gap weren’t you?
Q: “You were concerned about the gap naturally’’
A: “It was unfortunate.’’
Q: “Because potentially relevant evidence was lost?’’
Confirming how his army superiors had launched an inquiry in a bid to discover who had been responsible for destroying the evidence, he was asked:
Q: “There was an investigation wasn’t there in to who was responsible for wiping the data?’’
A: “People wanted to know why the data was erased, yes.’’
Q: “Your superiors were concerned?’’
A: “They looked in to the reasons why the data had been erased.’’
`PIN 8625’was cross-examined further by Wooton’s solicitor Andrew Moriarty.
Q: “Do you know how the data was wiped?’’
Q:“Is it difficult to wipe the data?
Q: “How long would it take to wipe the data?’’
A: “Not sure I can answer the question. It depends on the duration and how much information is on it.’’
Q: “Is there a procedure that has to be gone through to wipe data?’’
Q: “Can we infer from that it cannot be wiped accidentally?’’
A: “It can be wiped accidentally’’
Q: “Do you know whether it was wiped accidentally or whether it was wiped on purpose?’’
A: “No I don’t.’’
The soldier was cross-examined as to how vital intelligence could have been left unattended and then destroyed inside a secure army base.
Q: “Is the storage facility on your base secure?’’
Q: “Would only authorised personnel be allowed to enter the storage area. ’’
A: “A number of people can enter the storage area.’’
Q: “Do they require specific authorisation or permission?
A: “They would have to know how the kit works. The only people who would go in there are people trained in this kind of
Q: “Is this a specific storage facility?’’
Q: “Can I take it only a small number of people with access?’’
Q: “And those people all have particular expertise with these devices?’’
Q: “In the storage facility, is there any sort of labeling system for the material stored within?
A: “We label the kit with the particular operation that it is involved with.’’
The court also heard evidence from a weapons’ contractor, identified only as witness `J’, who had supplied the device used to track Wooton’s car.
Witness `J’ was cross-examined over `PIN 8625’s assertion that the tracking device could have been wiped by accident?
Q: “There’s a set procedure isn’t there for retrieving information from the device, isn’t that correct?
A: “Yes, that’s correct.’’
Q: “There is also a set procedure for deleting information from the device, isn’t that correct?
A. “Yes. that’s correct.’’
Q: “And is it fair to say that these procedures are completely different?
A. “The two procedures are completely different.’’
District judge Alan White ruled that Wooton and McConville should be returned for trial later this year, stating:
“It is not my place to decide if the device (used to track Wooton] was accurate.
“The court will decide.
“It is not a question of whether it was accurate regarding one location, but over a whole series of locations over time.”
He added: “It would be more important if “a consistent pattern of movement emerged” rather than the accuracy of the device in relation to one place.’’
Intelligence services accused in past of withholding evidence
With many thanks to: The Detail for the original posting dated: 14 March 2011.
From almost daily stop and searches of persons and vehicles to more intimidating measures of forceably entering family homes to scare and put fear into innocent kids and families during house raids which are another tactic used by the british ruc psni to try and break families!!
All these things do is make republicans stronger and more determined to rid these armed british thugs from our country and give Ireland back to the Irish again!!
With many thanks to: Christopher Hamill, Republican Sinn Féin.
Colin Duffy, Alec McMcrory, and Harry Fitzsimmons appeared in court this week accused of paramilitary offences. No details were given of the evidence against them. However, it is understood that all three have been under a lengthy period of sophisticated surveillance with MI5 assisting the PSNI/RUC in tracking their movements. The levels of monitoring were unprecedented in scale and included the placing of tiny listening devices in items of clothing. Tracking devices were also used and open spaces – including a green in Co Armagh were Duffy (46) was known to frequently walk – were fitted with hidden spying technology. Gardai have also been assisting the PSNI/RUC as part of a cross-border crackdown on dissidents, monitoring suspects when they travelled to the Republic.
A house in Co Louth visited by Duffy and former IRA prisoner McCrory (52) is believed to have been under surveillance and fitted with listening devices. Under Home Office guidelines authorisation for ‘intrusive ssurveillance’ must be given by the secretary of state and can be granted for periods of six months at a time, providing its use is in the interests of ‘national security’. Although covertly gathered evidence has been used in the North of Ireland in the past, the monitoring surrounding Duffy is on a level never seen before. During the trial of teenager John Paul Wotton for the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll the court was told a military tracking device had been fitted to his vehicle. On Monday a workman in Craigavon, Co Armagh, found a military tracking device under the wheel arch of his van. This week Duffy, Fitzsimmons and McCrory were each charged with conspiracy to murder, conspiring to possess firearms and explosives with intent to endanger life and belonging to a proscribed organisation. McCrory and Fitzsimmons were also accused of involvement in a gun attack on Crumlin Road in North Belfast on December 5 and possession of a firearm with intent. The offences cover a period between January 1 and December 16 this year, although Fitzsimmons (45) was only freed from prison in May after serving a jail term for the attempted kidnapping of Bobby To hill in 2004. The trio did not seek bail.
With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News.
THREE of the most high-profile republicans in the North of Ireland appearing in court together was always going to attract a huge amount of attention and it was standing room only in court 10 at Belfast’sLaganside complex on Tuesday.
Co Armagh man Colin Duffy was joined in the dock by Harry Fitzsimmons, only recently released from Maghaberry Gaol after serving a sentence for abducting Bobby Tohill in 2004, along with Alec McCrory, a long-serving IRA prisoner and ‘blanket man’. The trio face a series of charges including involvement in a dissident Republican gun attack on police vehicles in North Belfast earlier this month. A Kalashnikov-style weapon was recovered during a follow-up search of the Ardoyne area following the shooting on December 5. The public gallery was packed to capacity with family members and supporters. Several loyalists charged in connection with July 12 violence appeared nervous as charges were put to them with such a large republican audience looking on. Recognisable faces among the supporters were Coalisland man Kevin Barry Murphy, North Belfast republican Brendan Conway and independent councillor Angela Nelson. Dressed casually when brought up from the court’s holding cells to the dock, the three accused remained impassive throughout the short hearing. They refused to stand while charges were read out and refused to answer when they were put to them. A detective said he could connect the accused to the offences. The men’s solicitors said they would not be applying for bail at this time. The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and as the three were taken back into custody supporters in the public gallery clapped and cheered. Magistrate Fiona Bagnall ordered the court be cleared. There was a heavy police presence outside the courthouse as the three were taken from the court to Maghaberry Gaol in a blacked-out prison van.
With many thanks to: Allison Morris, The Irish News
Arguably the most recognisable face of anti-agreement republicanism, the Co Armagh man was acquitted in January 2012 of the murder of two British soldiers at Massereene army base in Co Antrim in 2009, having served a lengthy period on remand. In 1993 he was convicted of the PIRA murder of UDA man John Lyness but was acquitted on appeal. The 47-year-old was also detained followng the IRA murders of constable David Johnson and John Graham in Lurgan in June 1997, shortly before the second IRA ceasefire but the charges were dropped due to insufficient evidence. In November last year he was arrested by detectives investigating the murder of prison officer David Black but was released without charge. His most recent arrest was in May of this year when he was qustioned about dissident republican activity before being released unconditionally. Once the most senior member of Shame Fein in the Lurgan area the hard line republican left the party prior to the decision to endorse policing. He was briefly a member of eirigi, but left the party shortly before his arrest for the Massereene attack.
The West Belfast man served two periods of imprisonment for the Provisional IRA. He was one of the youngest prisoners to join the blanket protest after being jailed in 1978 at the age of 17. He was imprisoned for a second time in the 1980s and served 14 years for possession of a bomb. In 2011 he was the first person in the North of Ireland to make an offcial complaint to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal over what he claimed were repeated attempts by MI5 to recruit him as an agent. More recently he has acted as a spokesman for republican prisoners held in Maghaberry.
HE was released from prison in May of this year after serving a jail term for the abduction of dissident Bobby Tohill in 2004 from a Belfast city centre bar. Tohill was rescued by police who rammed the van he was being carried in, he later refused to give evidence against his abductors. The event nearly jeopardized the Peace Process as the Provos were on ceasefire at the time. Fitzsimmons and his co accused went on the run in 2006 while awaiting sentencing, he was extradited to the North after being arrested in Dundalk in November 2009. While in Maghaberry he spent most of his sentence on protest against the prison regime. He was arrested last month and questioned about the murder of drug dealer Kevin Kearney but was released without charge. Since being released he had been living in North Belfast, however, after receiving death threats his address was given on Tuesday as of ‘no fixed abode’.