TWO teenagers appeared in court today after police uncovered a suspected bomb making factory this week in south Armagh.
In the dock at Newry Magistrates Court were Keith McConnan (19) and 18-year-old Orla O’Hanlon, both of Tievecrom Road, Forkhill.
They were flanked in the dock by four PSNI officers and another four stood guard in the court as they were formally charged.
The defendants were both charged with making and possessing of explosives with intent to endanger life or property between December 15 and December 18 this year.
The pair arrived from the serious crime suite in Antrim in a convoy of police landrovers while armed officers stood outside the courthouse for their first appearance.
A detective constable from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch told district judge Eamonn King that he could connect the two teenagers to the charges.
The officer said the pair were arrested at a house on Tievecrom Road on Wednesday, December 18 under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act.
The court heard that while McConnan was being taken to Antrim police station officers found a latex glove in his hip pocket.
“A search was carried out of the property and a box of latex gloves was also found,’’ said the detective.
He told the court that in a walk-in wardroom in a bedroom officers found a timer power unit and ancillary items for the TPU.
“This would enable a bomb to be placed which could delay the detonation for several days.’’
The detective added that in a bin a white substance was discovered which was forensically tested and found to be ammonium nitrate which he said is is used for “home made explosives or HME’’.
He said it appeard there had been an attempt at a clear up operation as similar white powder was found in a hoover in the hallway although it has yet to be forensically tested.
In another bedroom, the court heard, police also found a three feet tall industrial coffee grinder.
“There was fine powder both inside and outside the grinder. This had the capacity to grind down 20kg of home made explosives per hour.’’
The detective said that the coffee grinder had been supplied to McCannon’s home address in Kilcurry, Dundalk, Co Louth.
During a follow-up search at the address, Garda detectives a bag of glucose in his bedroom.
“The ammonium nitrate found in the house in Tievecrom Road is linked to the glucose in Kilcurry,’’ he told the court, adding that the pair had only been in the house between four and and six weeks prior to the planned police raid.
The detective said that during 13 interviews, McConnan made no comment replies to questions from police.
However, he gave a prepared statement in which he said the latex glove found in his hip pocket had been used when he was putting oil into his oil tank.
But the officer said a receipt found for the oil which dated back to November 28 this year,saying it was unlikely he was filling the oil tank on the day of his arrest.
He told the court that O’Hanlon said that during initial interviews she spoke openly to detectives about family and home life.
But when she was asked about the items recovered in the property she refused to comment except to say that the industrial coffee grinder was used to grind down flour.
No applications were made for bail and District Judge King remanded them in custody to Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfaast.
They are due back in Newry Magistrates Court via video link on January 8, 2014.