Belfast woman pleads guilty to attempted murder of police officers in 2013
Belfast woman Christine Connor, 31, has pleaded guilty to attempting to murder a police officer in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on May 28, 2013, as well as a number of terrorism offences.
She appeared at Laganside Crown Court today, where she also admitted possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on May 16 and May 28, as well as preparation of terrorist acts between February 1, 2013 and May 30, 2013.
A co-defendant, who also jointly faced five charges including attempted murder and possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on May 16 and May 28, is now deceased.
Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, of Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Serious Crime Branch, said: “This has been a hugely complex and unusual case spanning over four years and involving UK police services working together to gather evidence in order to place a very dangerous individual before the Courts.
“Christine Connor meticulously planned the attack on police officers who were attending what they thought was a genuine emergency call for help from a member of the community who was in danger in the early hours of the morning. They had arrived at a residential address on the Crumlin Road to try and help a vulnerable woman, but instead they were lured to a hoax call which ended in an attempt to murder them.
“She planned this attack over quite a period of time and used a web of deceit and lies to enlist the help of Stuart Downes, 31, from Meole Brace in Shrewsbury, who had been due to stand trial also but who died in non-suspicious circumstances in June 2016.
“Christine Connor’s deceitfulness knew no bounds and involved using a fictitious name and a profile picture that bore no resemblance to her when communicating online with Stuart Downes to plan this sickening attack on officers who were simply carrying out their core job of protecting their community.
“She had two attempts at murdering police officers on two separate dates and both involved her making hoax 999 calls to lure them to where she was hiding.
“Her first attempt did not result in injury, although the improvised explosive device did detonate. However Christine used this as a ‘trial run’ for the attack on May 28 when she threw two IEDs at officers, which resulted in my colleagues being very badly shaken but thankfully not injured.
“It is just sheer good fortune that they were not killed or seriously injured. What is clear though is the total disregard Christine had for the people within this community who also could have been seriously injured or killed. The shrapnel from the devices travelled for 35 metres and was found lodged in the homes of local people.”
A claim of responsibility for the attack on May 28, 2013 made from a Public Call Box in the Shrewsbury area formed a major part of the PSNI enquiry.
“This resulted in the identification of Stuart Downes as a suspect,” explained Detective Superintendent Geddes.
“This, together with CCTV evidence obtained in the vicinity of the May 28 attack in the Crumlin Road, resulted in the identification of Christine Connor as a suspect and subsequent investigations provided the link between Stuart Downes and Christine Connor.
“Today’s outcome is the result of excellent joint working between the PSNI and West Mercia Police alongside the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit. A vast amount of evidence has been obtained from the examination of mobile telephones, computers, media devices and on line networking sites which evidenced the conspiracy between Christine Connor and Stuart Downes.
“Working together, we have disrupted the activity of a dangerous individual who will now face the rigours of the criminal justice system.”
Detective Inspector Martyn Barnes, of West Mercia Police, said: “The outcome at court today is the culmination of a significant and detailed investigation involving three UK police services. It is a positive example of how we do not work in silo and we hope this case reassures the communities we serve that we can and do work together to ensure justice is done.”
A date for sentencing has been set for June 20, 2017.