Poitin expert gives evidence at Louth explosives trial

A Garda expert in the distillation of poitin has given evidence in the trial of two Louth men accused of possessing explosive substances.

A Garda expert in the distillation of poitin has given evidence in the trial of two Louth men accused of possessing explosive substances.

Philip McKevitt (aged 58) of Aghaboys, Mount Pleasant, has pleaded not guilty to the possession of an improvised trailer and two gas cylinders adapted to cause an explosion at his home on May 22nd, 2010.

His co-accused Conan Murphy (aged 25), with an address at Plaster, Mount Pleasant, Dundalk, Co Louth, has also pleaded not guilty to the possession of explosive substances at the same address and on the same date.

It is the prosecution’s case that Gardaí who raided Philip McKevitt’s home discovered in an outbuilding an “adaptive” advertising trailer constructed for the purposes of concealing two gas containers which in turn had been modified to cause an explosion.

The court heard evidence from gardai who had placed the address under surveillance as part of an operation focusing on the suspected movement and manufacture of vehicle-born improvised explosive devices by members of the IRA.

Garda Fergus Gaughan told Mr Paul Greene SC, prosecuting, that he had experience in searching for illicit spirits and evidence of their manufacture in the West of Ireland and was familiar with the legislation governing poitin stills.

He said that, based on his experience, the adaptive trailer, two modified gas cylinders and a reel of modified electrical wire uncovered by gardai during the raid at Aghaboys could not have been used in the manufacture or distillation of poitin.

The court had previously heard evidence from Detective Sergeant Padraig Boyce, Special Detective Unit, that Mr Murphy had remarked “You are going to an awful lot of trouble for poitin smuggling” during his arrest.

Garda Gaughan agreed with counsel for Mr Murphy, Ms Deirdre Murphy SC, that his expertise in the field was confined to poitin and not the distillation of other spirits, such as vodka.

He accepted that the modified gas canisters were capable of transporting 100 litres of liquid apiece and said he knew of stills were alcohol was brewed but bottled at a separate location.

The court this afternoon also heard evidence of garda interviews with Conan Murphy during his detention at Drogheda garda station.

Mr Murphy told gardaí that he occasionally called to Philip “Barney” McKevitt’s house to have a cup of tea and “give a hand” around the house. He said that on the night of his arrest he had called to Aghaboys, had a cup of tea with Mr McKevitt and then went to a shed outside to get firewood for his pot-belly stove.

When asked by gardaí to account for the materials found by gardaí during the raid, including the adaptive trailer, modified gas cylinders, bags of glucose and a schematic drawing of the trailer, Mr Murphy repeatedly replied that he knew nothing of these objects.

The trial continues in front of presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler on Tuesday.

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