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Lennon bomb plot appeal rejected

Two men convicted of sending parcel bombs to Celtic Manager Neil Lennon and others have lost their appeal against their convictions. Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie were sentenced to five years imprisonment in April last year.

Variety of charges

The high-profile case dates back to spring 2011, when a series of suspicious parcels were sent to Neil Lennon, the late Paul McBride QC, Patricia Godman MP and an organisation known as Cairde Na Heireann.

Two North Ayrshire men – Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie – were arrested, and a year later came to trial charged with a variety of offences, including that of conspiracy to murder.

It was established in court that none of the five devices sent were actually capable of exploding. One, sent as a hoax, contained inert putty and nails. In one of the others a small container of petrol was included, while three of the others had containers which disclosed traces of tri-acetone tri-peroxide, which is potentially dangerous.

Conspiracy to assault

Taken together, said the trial judge, there was insufficient evidence to support a charge of conspiracy to murder. Instead, the jury was asked to consider whether the two men were involved in a conspiracy to assault.

The jury’s answer – yes, they were.

Grounds of appeal

Muirhead and McKenzie appealed, arguing that, while there was evidence showing that they had conspired to send “the relevant packages to the organisation and individuals concerned”, there was “insufficient evidence to entitle the jury to find it proved that the appellants believed that the packages were capable of exploding and causing injury”.

There were two issues for the appeal judges:

  • Had the Crown led sufficient evidence to demonstrate this state of belief?
  • Was the jury entitled to infer this belief from the evidence it was given?

Sufficiency of evidence

The Appeal Court said yes.

It listed all the evidence provided by the Crown, pointing to conversations in the home of Mr Muirhead’s son, conversations overheard in Mr McKenzie’s car and the use of substances which, had they been used in the correct proportions, would have been capable of exploding.

“In our view,” said the Court, “the evidence was sufficient to entitle them to draw the inference in relation to each appellant, first, that he had been party to an attempt to create an explosive substance for inclusion in the packages and secondly, that he believed the various parcels sent comprised an improvised explosive device which was capable of igniting or exploding causing injury.”

The appeal was therefore rejected.