A SENIOR PSNI officer has described the investigation into the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell as “without doubt the largest in my career”.
The officer made the comment as one of the latest men charged in connection with the attack was refused bail today (Monday).
DCI Caldwell was shot by two gunmen on the evening of February 22 this year while taking football practice at Youth Sport in Omagh.
Seven men are jointly charged with his attempted murder in what was described as a “meticulously planned” attack.
They are Jonathon McGinty (28), from St Julian’s Downs, Gavin Coyle (45), from Killybrack Mews, Robert McLean (28) and James Ivor McLean (72) and Alan McFarland (47), all of Deverney Park, all in Omagh, along with Matthew Joseph McLean (33), of Glenpark Road, outside Omagh, and Brian Carron (38), of Claremount Drive, Coalisland.
Matthew McLean, McFarland and McGinty are also accused of preparing for acts of terrorism by the provision of vehicles.
Carron and Coyle are further accused of belonging to the IRA.
Last week, another three men were charged with preparing for acts of terrorism.
James Gerard McSorley (58), from Chichester Mews, Belfast, John Andrew Gallagher (45), from Church Drive, Newtownabbey, and Tony Thomas Slevin (47), from Derryloughan Road, Coalisland, are jointly charged in relation to a Ford Fiesta believed to have been used in the attack.
McSorley and Gallagher are also charged with possessing items and providing money or property for terrorism.
It is alleged Gallagher sourced and stored one of two similar Ford Fiestas, McSorley drove it from Belfast to Tamnamore and Slevin assisted in its transport.
A detective inspector told Dungannon Magistrates Court last week a blue Fiesta arrived at Youth Sport and two men wearing waterproof clothing approached DCI Caldwell, shooting him multiple times.
They left in the Fiesta, which was later found on fire.
It had been fitted with false plates taken from a vehicle in Coalisland.
CCTV showed one Fiesta “looped” Youth Sport while the incident was underway.
The next day, the other Fiesta “of a similar age and colour” was reported on fire in Ardboe.
The detective said, “Two blue Fiestas were in the area of the attack at the same time and both destroyed by fire … This is the Belfast part of the New IRA supplying vehicles to the Tyrone New IRA to carry out an attack. Communication is arranged by other members who will cascade down into each area and operatives will be given their instructions.”
Slevin and McSorley unsuccessfully applied for bail, with District Judge Michael Ranaghan stating, “This a complex and intricate investigation with a web of evidence between the three defendants and the attack on DCI Caldwell.”
Gallagher’s bail application was adjourned until today (Monday) which, like his co-accused, was opposed by police.
Today, the detective explained Gallagher attempted to dispose of a Volkswagen Golf which it is believed was to be used in the attack but later switched.
Police recovered it from a scrapyard where Gallagher took it the day after McSorley was arrested.
“I have severe concerns of this defendant being released on bail,” said the detective. “This is without doubt the largest investigation I have been involved in my career. At times there are up to 100 detectives working on it. There are also still outstanding suspects and enquiries are continuing.”
A defence solicitor pointed to a prepared statement Gallagher submitted during interview in which he accepted contact around one vehicle which he sold on behalf of someone else.
He denied any knowledge of the attack on DCI Caldwell and had no suspicions anything was planned.
However, the detective said, “We believe he was fully aware this was a terrorist/criminal endeavour.”
While accepting there is no evidence Gallagher is a member of the New IRA, the detective added, “He is a trusted individual.”
After consideration, Judge Ranaghan refused bail stating, “Given the nature of this case in this country I believe there is significant risk. I don’t believe any bail conditions would be adhered to.”
All accused will appear again by videolink at Omagh Magistrates Court on 25 July.
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