Northern Ireland

Bomb accused court hears of high-speed police chase

Derry alert pic from 2015
Image caption A bomb was planted under the car of a policeman at his home in Londonderry

The trial of a man accused of planting a bomb under the car of an off-duty policeman has heard about a high-speed chase involving armed police.

Sean McVeigh, 37, of Victoria Street, Lurgan, was detained in County Donegal shortly after the device was planted in Londonderry in June 2015, the court has been told.

He was not arrested by the PSNI until nearly a year later.

He denies attempting to murder police and possessing explosives.

On Wednesday, Belfast Crown Court heard that garda (Irish police) in Letterkenny were initially asked for assistance by the PSNI in Strand Road, Derry, concerning two cars which failed to stop at a police checkpoint and were thought to be en route to Bridgend in County Donegal.

It was also suspected they may have had something to do with the planting of the bomb.

'Clearly evading'

A number of police patrols were alerted, and the court also heard that members of an armed unit were also tasked to take part in the search.

The court heard it was a two-man patrol from this specialist unit, while driving towards the border town of Lifford, which first spotted one of the suspect cars, a black Volkswagen Passat, on the outskirts of Killygordon.

They immediately gave chase.

The driver said that although he switched on the siren and blue flashing lights, the car was "clearly... evading any attempt by ourselves to stop it".

He also said the Passat drove through a red light and swerved on to the wrong side of the road to avoid a car stopped at the lights.

Eventually police managed to block the Passat as it sped towards Ballybofey.

'Remained silent'

Once the car was stopped, the police officer said that he and his sergeant "took necessary action" and having drawn his "official issue pistol" told those in the car, they were armed police.

He said that after first detaining and handcuffing the back-seat passenger, he then detained and handcuffed Mr McVeigh, who was the front-seat passenger, while his sergeant arrested the driver.

Despite being asked for their names, the three men remained silent, he added.

Later, in a follow-up search of the chase route, the police officer said he found a black glove, turned inside out, lying on the ground.

He remained with the find until it was photographed and placed in an envelope by a detective.

During cross-examination, the police officers said they were "conscious" of the need to protect the scene for forensics and of the dangers of possible contamination.

However, they accepted that they had not been wearing gloves at the time and had not put the men in forensic suits, as they were not available.

They also said that the three suspects were only "patted down" and that the Passat was given only a "cursory search as such" to establish there was nothing which could have posed a danger.

The police officers maintained there had been no "long search of the vehicle" and that while they may have looked inside, they had not entered it, although it would have been possible for other police officers to enter the car without their knowledge.

The non-jury trial continues on Thursday.