Man cleared of Belfast bomb attempt on retrial after eleven years

Friday, November 12, 2010

The trial centred around an attack launched from a Ford Transit

A judge hearing a retrial before the Belfast Crown Court has cleared a man of an attempted bombing eleven years after he was first arrested. Convicted of possessing the bomb with intent to cause an explosion and endanger life in 2006, Gary Jones was granted a retrial on appeal.

On July 21, 1998 a Ford Transit van was used to launch a homemade mortar bomb at Newry police station in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The gas cylinder used, with 79kg of explosives inside, travelled only a few feet and did not explode. The van crashed into a parked car during the attack and was abandoned; the driver escaped despite being tackled by a witness, leaving behind his jumper.

The jumper, bomb, van, a denim jacket, and a hard hat were all examined forensically but only one piece of evidence was ever found — a spot of blood on the jumper. It matched Jones and he was arrested in March 1999.

the verdict must be one of not guilty

—Mr Justice McCloskey

Forensic scientist Margaret Boyce testified that there were four possible sources for this blood: Jones coming into direct contact with it, the blood being transmitted in the air, the jumper touching something bloodstained, and 'secondary' contact. She concluded the last of these was less likely but the other three all had an equal chance of being the source.

Jones, giving evidence, denied remembering anything about the date of the offence or knowledge of the incident prior to his arrest. He said in addition to his painting and decorating business he had part-time employment at a children's home which included dealing with bags of used clothes.

Mr Justice McCloskey said this "evidence does not point in a single direction. I further conclude that this evidence does not exclude reasonably tenable possibilities — namely purely innocuous contact in the course of employment or daily living — consistent with the defendant's innocence. The prosecution have failed to establish the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt — accordingly, the verdict must be one of not guilty."

Jones had been sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment.