THE hunt is on for a dissident suspect who tried to smuggle secret comms into jail linked to a dissident IRA leader.
The details emerged as a 38-year-old man was remanded in custody when he appeared in court charged with directing terrorism.
There was a heavy police presence at Derry Magistrates’ Court for the appearance of Thomas Ashe Mellon, of Rathmor Park in the Bligh’s Lane area of the city.
Mellon, a father of four, is charged with being a member of a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, between a date unknown and 5 June last.
He is further charged with directing terrorism between the same dates.
Mellon, a taxi driver, refused to stand and did not speak during the hearing which was told his arrest followed the attempted smuggling of a letter from the IRA leadership into Magheraberry Prison last Thursday.
A female PSNI detective constable told the court the letter, made up of cigarette papers and wrapped in cling film, was discovered on “Mr O” by prison staff.
The police witness said the letter was addressed to a recently sentenced dissident republican prisoner housed in the prison’s Roe House wing spoke of a “Brussell’ (tout) among the inmates.
It expressed discontent within the IRA leadership of “too much loose talk” by prisoners during visits.
The detective constable told the court “Mr O” was refused entry into the prison and was now being sought by police as a “suspect.”
She told the court “Mr O” was seen talking to Mellon at 5.15pm on Thursday on Glenshane.
She added DNA belonging to Mellon was found on the cigarette papers and that during a search of his home no smoking related items were found and during his time in custody he did not ask “for a smoke.”
She added the accused refused to comment throughout police interviews which took place from Friday to yesterday.
Stating police believed Mellon was the author of the letter, the detective told the court police believed he would carry out further offences if released on bail.
She also added police feared he would leave the jurisdiction and interfere with witnesses.
Applying for bail, defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said Mellon’s DNA on the letter did not mean he was its author.
Mr MacDermott added Mellon had a “relatively clear record” and the evidence present was “very weak” and did not justify him being remanded in custody.
Stating Mellon was before the court on a “very serious matter,” Resident Magistrate Barney McElholm refused bail adding the accused had a relative offence in 2007 and the possibility of him committing further offences was “a very real one.”
Mellon was remanded in custody to appear via video link at Derry Magistrates Court on 3 July next.
As he was led away, Mellon was applauded by supporters in the public gallery.
Around 50 people cheered and applauded him as he was driven from the courthouse in police car.