Northern Ireland

Christine Connor dismisses pipe bomb claims as 'ridiculous'

Christine Connor Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Christine Connor denies six charges including attempted murder and explosives offences

A woman has described as "ridiculous" an allegation that she transported pipe bombs in a supermarket bag just prior to an attack on police.

Christine Connor, 34, whose address is subject to a reporting restriction, is on trial before Belfast Crown Court.

She denies six charges arising from two incidents in the north of the city in May 2013.

The first occurred on 16 May, with the second taking place on 28 May.

Ms Connor, who was called to the witness box on Tuesday, has been charged with, and denies, two counts of possessing explosives with intent, two counts of causing an explosion with intent to endanger life, attempting to murder a police constable and the preparation of terrorist acts.

Under questioning from her barrister, Tim Moloney QC, Ms Connor spoke of her republican background and her involvement with the Republican Network for Unity (RNU).

When questioned about the two incidents in north Belfast, Connor admitted she was out for an early morning walk in the area at the time of the second incident, but denied involvement in both.

Mr Moloney asked his client about her education, family background and employment history.

She was then asked whether republican politics was an important part of her upbringing, to which she said "yes, very much so".

Ms Connor said that around late 2012 and early 2013, she was actively involved with RNU which she described as "a political organisation, not an armed group".

Ms Connor said she and other members took part in protests, pickets and camp outs "to highlight the plight of republican prisoners", with one such protest taking place outside the Alliance Party headquarters in south Belfast as at that time the party's David Ford was justice minister.

She was asked about former co-accused Stuart Downes, who was charged with offences linked to the incident.

Downes, who the Crown say assisted Ms Connor by purchasing component parts for the pipe bombs and ensuring they were delivered to Northern Ireland, died in June 2016.

Ms Connor denied communicating with Mr Downes and when she was asked if she ever pretended to be Swedish model Sanne Andersson, she replied "no".

Mr Moloney then questioned his client about movie clips - one of which was found on Mr Downes' phone and another on a laptop found in a mattress in her bedroom.

It is the Crown's case that one of the clips is Ms Connor conducting a "dry-run" of the route she planned to take before launching the first pipe bomb attack on 16 May.

Image caption Christine Connor is on trial before Belfast Crown Court

Ms Connor denied making the video, and when asked "is that your voice on it?", she replied: "no it definitely is not".

She also denied being involved in the incident.

Mr Moloney then turned to the events of 28 May.

When he asked Connor "were you out and about that night?", she said she was.

When asked why, she said: "It is something that I did regularly."

'Loud bangs'

Ms Connor was asked if she brought a bag with her and she replied "yes ... for water".

"I have type two diabetes and I'm constantly drinking water."

When asked what type of bag it was, Ms Connor said it was a Tesco reusable bag.

When Mr Moloney asked Ms Connor "did you carry pipe bombs in that bag?", she replied "don't be ridiculous".

Ms Connor was also asked about hearing loud bangs when out walking at about 02:00.

Ms Connor said she recalled talking to a woman on the street who was in her pyjamas, they had a brief chat about the bangs and that Ms Connor told the woman she had dropped her phone.

The final line of questioning was about her arrest on 29 May 2013, and the police interviews.

Ms Connor denied putting a laptop and other material in a mattress found in her bedroom, and when asked about a pair of boots also seized, Ms Connor said they did not fit her and were not her size.

Mr Moloney closed his questioning by asking Ms Connor why she gave no response to questions asked during multiple police interviews.

Ms Connor said that whilst in custody in Antrim for seven days following her arrest, she had two different solicitors - both of whom advised her to make no comment.

The non-jury trial is due to resume on Wednesday when Ms Connor is expected to be cross-examined by a Crown barrister.

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