Man acquitted of Newry bomb attack

Image caption, The case was heard at Belfast Crown Court

A man jailed for 14 years for a bomb attack on Newry police station has been acquitted.

Mr Justice McCloskey said a spot of blood from Gary Jones, 43, of Castlekeel, was found on a jumper taken from the driver of the van involved in the 1998 attack.

He said he could not be sure "beyond reasonable doubt" the driver had been Mr Jones.

In 2006, his conviction was quashed on appeal and a retrial ordered.

The judge told Belfast Crown Court on Friday he had evaluated the single piece of evidence against Mr Jones and had concluded that "this evidence does not point in a single direction".

"I further conclude that this evidence does not exclude reasonably tenable possibilities - namely purely innocuous contact in the course of employment or daily living - consistent with the defendant's innocence," he said.

"The prosecution have failed to establish the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt - accordingly, the verdict must be one of not guilty".

Mr Jones, from Castlekeel in Newry, had been accused of possessing the improvised mortar bomb with intent to cause an explosion and endanger life on 21 July, 1998.

During the trial, Mr Justice McCloskey heard that an explosives-filled gas cannister was launched from the back of a van, but landed only a few feet away.

He heard that the cannister failed to explode and that it had been aimed at Corry Square RUC Station.

The van had collided with a parked car as it was driven into the car park and as the driver fled the scene, he was tackled by a member of the public who wrestled the jumper from him.