Three men standing trial on offences arising from a gun attack on police were secretly recorded discussing ‘getting more rifles’ the day after the shooting, a policeman has claimed.
A police convoy was attacked in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast on December 5, 2013. The following day, the security services secretly recorded three men – who the Crown and PSNI say were Colin Duffy, Alex McCrory and Henry Fitzsimons – discussing the shooting in Lurgan.
Giving evidence at the Diplock non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court, a senior police officer involved in the investigation said he believed the three men covertly recorded by MI5 were the three accused.
Duffy, 51, Fitzsimons, 50, and 57-year-old McCrory, whose addresses can’t be given at this time, deny preparing and directing terrorism, and membership or professing to be members of the IRA.
Fitzsimons and McCrory are also charged with and deny attempting to murder police in the convoy, and possessing the two AK47 assault rifles and ammunition used in the attack.
A PSNI detective inspector was called to give evidence, and revealed that at the time, he was part of the inquiry team based in Lurgan.
He confirmed he received a number of discs containing CCTV footage and audio recordings from MI5 officers following the gun attack, and confirmed the recordings were taken from Forest Glade and Demesne Lane in Lurgan on December 6, 2013.
The detective inspector said he received the discs on December 9, and told the court: “On the 5th of December, there was an attempt to murder police, and on the 6th of December there was conversation in Lurgan, where we believe the three defendants had a conversation that was secretly recorded.”
The policeman said he believed MI5 listened to the recordings, and continued: “Police were then informed on the 9th of December that MI5 had recordings of this conversation and they contained evidence. At this stage, the discs were intelligence only.”
The officer said the discs were then passed to the PSNI “to access their content for offences and evidence”, and he told the court: “Between the 9th and 14th of December, we transcribed all the discs, working 16 to 18-hour days.”
He then revealed that after hearing a reference to ‘getting more rifles’ in the covert conversation, “in the interim, senior police, senior members of the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) and senior members of the secret service met to discuss the roles of these discs in criminal proceedings”.
The officer added: “On the 13th of December, consent was given to hand police the discs as evidence and on the 14th, I went and collected the evidential discs from the security services.”
He was then asked about the events of December 15th, 2013, and confirmed he was aware of the Tactical Support Group’s search and arrest operation in relation to McCrory and Fitzsimons, who both gave no reply when charged.
The officer confirmed that on December 17, he spoke to Duffy at Antrim Serious Crime Suite. Duffy was already aware of his identity and the nature of his inquiries, and answered ‘not guilty’ when charged with various offences linked to the gun attack.