Northern Ireland

Derry taxi driver describes Strand Road bomb trauma

A Londonderry taxi driver hijacked and forced to drive a bomb to a police station in August has said he fears he will never get over the trauma.

A number of businesses were destroyed when the 200lb bomb exploded outside Strand Road PSNI station.

Gerry McConnell said how gunmen threatened to kill him if he did not do what they wanted.

He added: "Every bump in the road, I was scared and terrified that the bomb was going to go off."

'Executed'

In his first interview since the attack, Mr McConnell described in detail what happened on the night of the bombing.

He told the BBC's Spotlight programme: "I turned around and I seen a gun in the window and a masked man standing outside.

"He said to me 'This is Oglaigh na hEireann - you will be executed if you do not stop this car'."

After another man got into the car along with the gunman, the taxi driver was told to go to a car park, with the pair repeatedly shouting at him to "go faster".

"They knew what they were doing. I am panicking because they have got the gun to the side of my head and I am thinking that the gun is going to off - this man seems very nervous and agitated."

When they got to the car park, another man appeared and told Mr McConnell to open the boot of his car.

He said that as plastic bags were loaded in, he originally thought the attack was a hoax but realised its deadly intention when he heard a ticking noise - the timer had been set.

Destruction

The masked men told him once again that if he tried to stop or ditch the car before getting to Strand Road police station, he would be killed.

One put a hand on his shoulder and told him to take consolation from the fact that he would now be considered a victim and would get disability living allowance.

When Mr McConnell got to Strand Road, the sight of a number of people eating in a nearby kebab shop made him realise the potential destruction the attack could cause.

He ran straight into the police station and told a policewoman that there was a bomb in his vehicle.

He was taken to a canteen within the station - within minutes the bomb exploded.

"Supposedly, they gave a 45-minute warning but it did not take 45 minutes. It took about half of that. I was very lucky."

Mr McConnell says his main aim is to return to the kind of day-to-day life he enjoyed before the night of the attack.

"At times, you try to put a brave face on it and try to be normal. I want to be normal again."

In 1990, Derry civilian army worker Patsy Gillespie was told to drive a bomb to Coshquin barracks near the border while his family were held hostage.

The bomb was detonated by remote control, killing Mr Gillespie and five soldiers.

Spotlight reporter Declan Lawn's investigation is available on iPlayer for viewers in the UK until 26 October.

More on this story

Around the BBC