Northern Ireland

Prisoner appears in court charged with attempting to murder off-duty police officer

Gavin Coyle appeared at Strabane Magistrates Court on Thursday
Image caption Gavin Coyle appeared at Strabane Magistrates Court on Thursday

A man who is currently serving a prison sentence has appeared in court in Strabane charged with attempting to murder a Catholic police officer in 2008.

The court heard that Gavin Coyle, 38, from Omagh, but whose address was given as Maghaberry Prison, had allegedly been secretly recorded talking about the attack.

He faces three charges, including attempting to murder the off-duty PSNI officer and causing an explosion likely to endanger life.

He is also charged with membership of the IRA.

The charges relate to an attack on a police officer in Castlederg on 12 May 2008.

He was on his way to work in Fermanagh when a bomb exploded under his car at Spamount, near Castlederg.

He suffered serious leg injuries and was rescued by a member of the public who dragged him from the wreckage shortly before it burst into flames.

Strabane Magistrates Court heard that police interviewed Mr Coyle about the attack twice in 2008, but that prosecutors decided the evidence against him - namely CCTV images, number plate recognition data, two witness statements, text messages and a trace of explosive residue found in his car - was insufficient to charge him.

A police officer said evidence from a covert recording of a meeting allegedly involving Mr Coyle, recorded in February 2010, had now given police sufficient grounds to charge him.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The attack on the off-duty officer happened near Castlederg in May 2008

The officer said the accused's convictions in relation to other dissident activities also added weight to the evidence against him.

A solicitor for Mr Coyle asked the officer why the charge had only materialised five years after the recording was obtained. He also questioned why it was not used against his client in his previous prosecution.

"This material was in the cognisance of the prosecution five years ago," he said.

The officer said expert voice recording analysis had taken a long time to progress and detectives only received a final report on the taped meeting in October this year.

Mr Coyle's solicitor, who questioned whether the man taped at the meeting was his client, highlighted that no specific details about the attack, such as the name of the officer or the location, were mentioned in the recorded conversation.

He accused police of an "abuse of process" and said a bid to stay the prosecution would be made at a later court hearing.

Upon further questioning by the solicitor, the officer acknowledged the case against Mr Coyle did not include fingerprint, DNA, fibre or vehicle tracking evidence.

An application for bail was rejected for Mr Coyle who refused to stand during the hearing or confirm that he understood the case against him.

He was remanded back into custody.

He gave a thumbs up when led away from the dock.

Armed police officers were present in and around the court during the hearing.

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