Firearms accused an “active member” of RAAD - court told

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Police believe a man charged with firearms offences is an “active and prominent member of RAAD”, a court has heard.

William Martin McDonnell, of Rinmore Drive, appeared at the local Magistrate’s Court today accused of three charges relating to a search of a house in Creggan on July 12.

The 26-year-old is charged with possessing an adapted blank firing Glock handgun with intent to endanger life and possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances.

He is further charged with possessing articles for use in terrorism. They include a Glack handgun, camouflage paramilitary style uniforms, a balaclava, a mobile phone, a two-way radio, a de-activated AK47 rifle, four replica AK47 weapons, a blank firing revolver and a blank firing glock handg

There was a heavy police presence inside and outside Derry Magistrates Court during the hearing.

An investigating officer told the court he believed he could connect McDonnell to the charges.

He said police searched the property in Rinmore Drive after 10pm on July 12 and when police entered it two men allegedly left through the back door and ran off towards Balbane Pass, where the defendant’s parents live.

During the search, the officer said the items referred to in the charges were found.

He revealed the 26-year-old was arrrested and during police interview he read out a prepared statement in which he admitted all the items belonged to him.

However, in the statement McDonnell claimed he collected clothing and “dummy guns” from a young age.

The court heard the defendant also told police that the items had not been used for illegal activity at any stage. However, during two days of further questioning by police he refused to speak.

The investigating officer told the court the items have been sent for forensic testing and it has been confirmed that one of the items is classified as a firearm and has been adapted for 7mm ball bearings.

He said police were “strenously opposed” to McDonnell being released on bail as they feared he may abscond, re-offend or re-engage with other suspected members of RAAD.

The officer accepted that while there was no evidence yet to link the firearms to attacks allegedly carried out by RAAD, it is common practice that 7mm ball bearings rounds are used by them.

He said it is “widely known” that replicas can be used “in shows of strength” .

He added: “Such items have appeared in the media before when they have paraded victims in front of the camera with items similar to those found in the home of William McDonnell”.

Refusing bail, District Judge Barney McElholm said there was a clear risk of further offences as the organisation McDonnell is alleged to be connected to is “responsible for very serious, violent criminal offences”.

The judge said the defendant’s explanations in his prepared statement were neither “credible nor sustainable” and it was clear he had a case to answer.

McDonnell will appear in court again, via videolink, on August 23.

As the judge remanded the 26-year-old in custody supporters of Andrew Allen, whose murder in Buncrana, Co.Donegal earlier this year was claimed by RAAD, clapped and cheered. A number of them were wearing black T-shirts stating “Andy RIP”.

District Judge McElholm threatened to have anyone who made any further noise arrested.