Terror and firearm accused '˜linked by DNA and fingerprints'

A Co Londonderry man has gone on trial in Belfast on terrorist and firearms offences arising from the search of a property in Dungiven.

Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 3:06 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th March 2018, 3:50 pm

As the Crown case against Dermot Kenneth Burke was opened on Tuesday at Belfast Crown Court, a prosecutor said the 45-year old’s DNA was found on some of the items seized, whilst his fingerprints were located on plastic bags which contained items removed from the scene by police.

Burke, from Main Street in Dungiven, has been charged with and denies four offences linked to the search in the town in July 2013, including possessing firearms in suspicious circumstances.

Amongst the items seized were a single-barrelled shotgun, a Webley revolver and articles for use in terrorism – namely six pick axe handles, a sledgehammer, an iron bar, balaclavas, improvised face masks, three imitation firearms and a blank calibre cartridge.

A prosecutor told the non-jury trial that a property and associated outbuildings on the Burn Road in Dungiven, where the accused lived at the time, were searched on July 22, 2013.

The items taken by police were located in various areas throughout both the house and outbuildings.

Judge Kevin Finnegan was told items including the pick axe handles, sledgehammer and iron bar were found in a wooden shed, whilst the shotgun and revolver were found displayed on a wall in an upstairs attic room of the house.

Other items including improvised masks and a beanie hat were found the drawer of a unit located in an outbuilding at the rear of the property

It is the Crown’s case that in total, after forensic examinations were conducted, Burke’s DNA profile was found on four items seized. This includes his DNA being located on the mouth region of one of the balaclavas, as well as the inner surface of an improvised mask.

The prosecutor also told Judge Finnegan that Burke was linked to some items via fingerprints, including on a plastic bag which contained two imitation firearms. Pointing out that the bags in question went out of circulation in October 2012, the prosecutor said Burke’s fingerprints on the bag “must have been made subsequent to that”.

In addition, the prosecutor said also located during the search was an article published in the Derry News newspaper on July 12, 2012 which bore the headline ‘Republican Group Threatens Action’ and which featured an image of masked men with weapons.

These weapons, the prosecutor said, were “similar in appearance” to the imitation firearms found during a search of Burke’s property which in turn “strongly supports the hypothesis they are the same guns”.

Regarding the two firearms found in display in the attic room, the prosecutor said the single-barrelled 12-bore shotgun had not been fired recently prior to the July 2013 search but was later successfully fired, while the Webley Revolver was rusted under the paintwork, with a corroded inside barrel.

Burke was interviewed on three separate occasions - in July and September 2013 and again the following July - where he gave an account for some items, but said he knew nothing about the imitation firearms.

At hearing.