Spy data was destroyed, court hears

The British Army had secretly bugged a car belonging to a County Armagh teenager on the night he is accused of involvement in a Continuity IRA attack on a member of the PSNI in 2009, it has been revealed.

However, the bugging device was later tampered with and evidence destroyed, despite being held inside a supposedly secure compound at a British Army base.

Constable Stephen Carroll became the first member of the PSNI to be killed after he was shot in Craigavon on the night of March 9, 2009.

The killing came just 48 hours after Real IRA gunmen had shot dead two British soldiers at Massereene army barracks in County Antrim.

Three days before the attack, then PSNI chief Hugh Orde had announced that he had called in an undercover British army unit to help police target dissident republicans.

He said that the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, based at the SAS headquarters in Hereford, England, would increase the PSNI’s “technical ability” but would have “no operation role.”

Within 48 hours the PSNI had arrested a number of suspects One of those arrested was a local 17-year-old. The teenager’s Citroen Saxo car was seized by the PSNI at the same time. Former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan McConville was another of those questioned.

Both of them were later charged with Carroll’s killing.

In court, prosecution lawyers would later allege that the teenager’s car had been parked 150 yards from the scene of the shooting and had driven off within minutes of the attack.

The level of undercover surveillance targeting the youth’s car was at such a level that the tracking device was programmed to send a signal from the it via satellite every two minutes.

But British army chiefs have now said in court that some of the data from the device used to track the getaway car on the morning after the shooting was inexplicably destroyed.

In January this year, an individual known only as `PIN8625’ became the first member of the Special Reconnaissance Regiment to give evidence in court since the recent deployment.

His evidence went unnoticed as no members of the media were present in court for his testimony.

However, ‘The Detail’ has now claimed it has obtained copies of his original statement to the PSNI and a transcript of his evidence to the court.

Speaking from behind a curtain, `PIN8625’ reportedly confirmed that data from the device had been wiped by unknown persons despite being held in a secure military compound.

The situation has raised anger over the continuing covert operations of British military intelligence units in the North of Ireland and their ‘dirty war’ tactics against Irish republicans.

It has also recalled the British government’s continuing insistence on withholding evidence in the 1998 Omagh bomb case and other serious cases throughout the conflict.

Lawyers for both of the accused have sought to have the charges dropped.

However, District judge Alan White has ruled that they should be returned for trial later this year, stating “the court will decide” on the evidence presented to it.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News