A man has appeared in court charged with a terrorism offence following an incident in which a car was hijacked and a hoax bomb left outside a police station.
Sean Pearson, 29, was refused bail at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court in the wake of the alert which occurred in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on May 6.
The court heard that Pearson is accused of buying the objects which were used to make the device. A defence lawyer said his client strenuously denied the allegation.
A major security alert was sparked after a motorist was held at gunpoint and forced to drive a suspicious object to the town’s police station.
The court heard that this was the sixth national security attack in Northern Ireland in six months and had occurred just miles from a dissident republican murder bid on a senior PSNI detective in February.
A PSNI detective chief inspector told the court he could connect Pearson to the charge.
Defence solicitor Owen Beattie said there would be an application for bail as well as a challenge to the detective connecting his client to the charge.
The detective told the court: “On Saturday May 6 2023 the injured party was in the car park at St Mary’s church, Drumragh.
“As he exited his vehicle he was approached by two males who told him to stay where he was and stated they were from the IRA.
“One of the males commented that the timer had already been set and a third male appeared.
“One of the males produced a firearm and placed an item in the boot of the injured party’s vehicle.
“He was told ‘take this to barracks, you have 20 minutes’ and was in such fear that he felt coerced to do what was demanded of him.
“The injured party then drove his vehicle to Omagh police station, abandoned it outside and made himself known to security staff on the site.”
The officer said the subsequent alert led to road closures and homes to be evacuated.
He said it was the police case from CCTV evidence that the accused had purchased the butane gas canisters and mechanical timer switch from a Home Bargains store in Strabane and the black and silver tape from a B&M Bargains store in Omagh.
The officer said the items from the device had been submitted for forensic examination.
He said that during interview Pearson’s solicitor said he bought the mechanical timer because his mobile phone overheated and could only be charged for two hours, the tape was for his work and the gas canister for use with a camping stove.
Outlining his objections to bail, the officer cited concerns over risk of reoffending and concerns over interference with witnesses and the course of justice.
He added: “There is a firearm outstanding in this case and there are at least two, potentially three outstanding suspects.
“The injured party was highly traumatised by this and is a man from the local area.
“There has been significant public sentiment, there was disruption in the fact houses had to be evacuated and a Mass had to be cancelled on the Sunday morning.
“This is the sixth national security attack within the last six months and this comes two months after the attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell only two miles up the road.”
He said: “We are working from a very limited field in terms of what is connecting the accused to the charge.
“The decision by the investigating team to charge the accused in relation to this single count has been premature.”
District Judge Ted Magill said he was satisfied that the defendant could be connected with the charge.
He also refused the application for bail and remanded Pearson in custody.