TWO dissident suspects have been released on bail over charges relating to the possession of a bolt-action antique rifle used in World War I.
Gerard Flannigan, 32, and Brian Holmes, 24, were arrested during a covert surveillance operation into suspected dissident republican activity on Barnfield Road, Lisburn, County Antrim, on 4 April.
The rifle was found wrapped in bin liners in nearby snow-covered bushes during daylight searches the next morning.
Both were bailed at Belfast High Court on Thursday.
According to police evidence the pair were seen getting out of a Hyundai vehicle close to where the gun was subsequently discovered.
The area was sealed off and Army technical officers were tasked to examine the weapon.
A prosecution barrister said Mr Flannigan appeared to be crawling on his hands and knees around a grass verge.
Police said following his arrest Mr Flannigan claimed to be at the scene to go to the toilet.
The court was told bin liners recovered from the boot of the car are being examined along with those used to wrap the rifle.
Defence counsel told the court the rifle was an antique 1917 Enfield used in World War One.
“It had no magazine and no bullets. You might find them in a museum or with an antique dealer, but you cannot buy them,” he said.
Four other people – three men and a woman – were arrested as part of the same operation but released without charge.
It prompted fears within dissident republican circles that one of the four was a police informant and the arrests were designed to hide their covert role in the PSNI investigation.