Blood stains on Coalisland priest’s car seat is key evidence in alleged IRA police barracks attack

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Blood stains found on the back seat of a priest’s car is the “primary evidence” against a Coalisland man accused of attempting to bomb a police station in 1997.

Paul Campbell, 37, of The Mills, has been living in County Monaghan for the last four years.

He was arrested at a railway station in Portadown at the weekend - 18 years after the IED attack on the RUC station in the town.

He appeared on Wednesday before East Tyrone Magistrate’s Court accused of causing an explosion with intent to endanger life on March 26 1997.

A detective sergeant from the PSNI outlined the case against the accused.

She said that on the night of the attack two males had been spotted running from the scene down a laneway. An SAS soldier gave fire as he believed the men to be drawing weapons.

One of the men, Gareth Doris, was struck and seriously injured.

As the soldiers treated the wounded man - who was subsequently imprisoned for his part in the attack - they were surrounded by a large crowd and had to vacate the area.

Despite being shot at by the SAS, the other man made good his escape in a white car. Police contend that the second individual was Paul Campbell.

She informed the court that the car belonged to the local parish priest, Father Seamus Rice, who later told the officers that he had slowed down after hearing a series of loud bangs. He had then heard someone shout, “There’s Father Rice” before an unknown male had jumped in the back of his car and demanded that he make off.

Amid their flight from the scene the back window of the car was smashed by bullets.

Fr Rice stopped on the Stewartstown Road where the man got out and made off on foot.

It is alleged that Campbell was admitted to Louth County Hospital the next day under the name ‘John Murphy’ but gave the same birthday as that of the defendant. A bullet was found lodged in his body despite his claims that he had been involved in a motorcycle accident.

The PSNI officer said that Gardai later identified the injured man as Campbell.

Samples taken from “blood-stained areas” in the rear of Fr Rice’s car were analysed alongside DNA swabs taken from Campbell following his arrest on Sunday. The detective stated that they “positively matched”.

The detective told the court that grounds to arrest Campbell only emerged in 2011 as a consequence of another police investigation. She added that she was unaware if extradition was considered at the time but said police in N. Ireland had been consulting with prosecutors about requesting a European Arrest Warrant.

She stated that police would be objecting to bail, citing risks of reoffending, interfering with witnesses, and absconding from the jurisdiction.

Mr Peter Corrigan, defending, told the court that his client comes from a well-respected family, stating that neither he nor any relative had a criminal conviction.

He insisted that Campbell had resided in Coalisland and had even worked in his uncle’s bar before moving to Monaghan in 2011.

Mr Corrigan claimed there was no risk of interfering with witnesses, highlighting that the main evidence was based on testimony from SAS soldiers, a scientific expert in blood analysis, and a priest who already said he could not identify the accused.

“Why would he interfere with witnesses who assist his case?” Mr Corrigan asked. “This defendant has every incentive to attend court.”

Judge Meehan granted bail, with a number of tight restrictions. However, a representative from the PPS said the decision would be appealed.

Campbell will remain in custody until the appeal is heard on Thursday in the High Court.