Lennon package 'contained peroxide'

A package addressed to Celtic manager Neil Lennon tested positive for a substance which can be used to make explosives, a British court heard today.

A package addressed to Celtic manager Neil Lennon tested positive for a substance which can be used to make explosives, a Scottish court heard today.

Royal Navy bomb disposal expert Robert McCann, 40, was called to deal with the package at Strathclyde House police premises in Glasgow on April 13 last year.

He told the High Court in Glasgow that his colleague Lieutenant John Keenan performed a chemical test on it to see whether it contained peroxide, and it tested positive.

Trevor Muirhead, 43, and Neil McKenzie, 42, are accused of conspiring to murder Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and lawyer Paul McBride QC, as well as various people in the premises of republican organisation Cairde na hEireann, by sending improvised explosive devices to them between March 1 and April 15 last year.

It is alleged that both accused, who deny all charges against them, believed the devices were capable of exploding.

Advocate Depute Tim Niven-Smith asked Mr McCann: "Can explosives be made with peroxide?" to which he replied: "That's correct."

Mr McCann, the leading diver at Northern Diving Group based at Faslane naval base in Argyll and Bute, told the court that the package had a tin inside containing a substance, and that he believed it also contained nails and a timing device.

He told the court that if an item tests positive for peroxide the team follow a protocol which includes wearing a bomb suit, carrying fire extinguishers, wearing flame-retardant gloves and a hood inside one's helmet to offer added protection.

He said that after the package was tested, it was taken to a safe area outside and he built a small cocoon of sandbags to contain any potential explosion.

He and his colleague then used a remote-controlled vehicle to pour the liquid in the metal container into a tray to which "desensitising liquid" and fuel were added so that it could be burnt off safely, which was then done.

Mr McCann told the court he did not know what part of the package his colleague carried out the peroxide test on.

Mr Niven-Smith said: "We don't know whether or not it is an explosive. Were the other components there to make an improvised explosive device?"

Mr McCann replied: "Not that I could see."

Asked what was absent, he said: "An initiator," and agreed that this was something that would initiate a reaction.

Asked what would have been the main danger if it had been capable of exploding, he said: "It would have been shrapnel. The nails would have been sent flying."

He said that the following day he found out that the package had been addressed to Lennon at Celtic's training ground.

The court heard that on April 15, the Royal Navy bomb disposal team were called to an address in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, to deal with a package that had been discovered by a postman. It was addressed to Paul McBride QC.

They set up a 100-metre cordon around the area and X-rayed the package.

The X-ray, which was shown to the jury, showed nails and a container with wire going into it.

Mr McCann said Mr Keenan then opened the package manually.

Muirhead and McKenzie also deny an alternative charge of conspiring to cause an explosion of a nature "likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property".

Mr McCann was asked whether they ascertained what was in the container, which was a bottle, in the package sent to Mr McBride.

He said he and his colleague were going on the idea that it was fuel as that was what the postman had reported smelling, adding that he himself smelled fuel in the air.

The court heard that the bomb disposal team also went to police premises - the Strathclyde Police headquarters in Pitt Street, Glasgow - on April 14 to examine another package which contained a resinous putty or substance.

They tested it for peroxide but it was negative.

Cross-examining Mr McCann, Donald Findlay QC, representing McKenzie, referred to the item they examined on April 15.

He said: "By the time you are called in, this material you are dealing with has been through the postal system, delivered to a training facility, been intercepted and opened by police, repackaged by police and stored in the production facility so an awful lot has happened before you chaps got anywhere near it."

Mr McCann replied: "That's correct."

Mr Findlay then questioned Mr McCann about the X-ray of the device found in Kilwinning.

He said: "From what we can see, it does not appear to be connected to a power source and, in the absence of a power source, nothing is going to happen unless you have a naked flame nearby, correct?"

The witness replied: "Correct."

However, Mr McCann said that it was hard to see from the X-ray whether there was anything among the nails.

Earlier, the court heard from Royal Mail delivery driver Stewart Hume, 37, who said he found what he described as a "suspicious package" which smelled of petrol, addressed to a lawyer.

Mr Hume told the court that e collected the package from a post-box in Montgomery Terrace, Kilwinning, Ayrshire, at around 4.15pm as he made his rounds on April 15 last year.

He said it was addressed to Paul McBride QC, a name he recognised from the media, agreeing that he had heard it in the context of football.

Mr Niven-Smith asked Mr Hume to describe the package.

He said: "It was a small Jiffy bag. I noticed who it was named to. It was named to Paul McBride QC."

Asked if he noticed anything else about it, he said: "There was a smell off the parcel - a smell of petrol."

He told the court that he phoned his supervisor to ask for guidance and was told to carry on with his rounds while his supervisor found out what to do.

He continued to drive around for the next 40 minutes or so, stopping at locations including Kilwinning Academy and North Ayrshire Council premises.

His supervisor then phoned him at around 5pm, telling him to park and walk away from the van, which he did. Police then went to the scene.

The jury was shown a photo of the package from the Kilwinning postbox which was seen to be addressed to Mr McBride at the Advocates' Library in Edinburgh.

The court also heard from Detective Sergeant Andrew Wright of the major crime investigation unit.

He was asked about the contents of the package sent to Mr McBride and he told the court that there was a surgical glove inside the package.

Det Sgt Wright said: "The glove was wrapped round the neck of the bottle."

He added: "The glove formed part of the contents of the package."

Police took possession of the glove and it was sent to the forensic explosives laboratory, the court heard.

Earlier, Mr McCann told the court he thought the glove belonged to his colleague Mr Keenan.

The indictment includes an allegation that Muirhead and McKenzie sent Mr McBride a package containing a plastic bottle containing a quantity of petrol, with wire attached to it, a plastic glove, nails and a watch component, which they believed comprised an improvised explosive device capable of igniting and exploding, causing severe injury and death to another person.

The court later heard how three components of the suspect package were purchased on the same day, in the same store.

A sports watch, travel bottle and bubble envelope were all bought from B&M Bargains in Stevenston, North Ayrshire.

The jury was told the shop was situated between Kilwinning and Saltcoats.

They were shown a receipt dated April 14 last year with the three items, each costing 99p, on it.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox