Seven in Court Charged With Attempted Murder of Northern Ireland Detective

Father and his two sons among those remanded into custody

Seven in Court Charged With Attempted Murder of Northern Ireland Detective
PSNI Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell pictured at a garden party in Northern Ireland on May 24, 2023 (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Patricia Devlin

Seven men—including a father and two sons—have been remanded in custody and charged with the attempted murder of a senior Northern Ireland police officer.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot several times outside a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone, in February.

Caldwell had been coaching a youth football match and was with his young son at the time of the attack.

The so-called New IRA claimed responsibility for the shooting, with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) investigating if the dissident republican group may have been assisted by members of a criminal gang.

The seven accused appeared via videolink at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court on Monday morning. They are: Jonathan McGinty, 28, of St Julians Downs, Omagh, Brian Carron, 38, of Claremount Drive, Coalisland, Gavin Coyle, 45, of Killybrack Mews, Omagh, Matthew McLean, 33, Glenpark Road, Omagh, Robert McLean, 29, Deverney Park, Omagh, James Ivor McLean, 72, of Deverney Park, Omagh, and Alan McFarland, 47, of Deverney Park, Omagh.

Carron and Coyle stand further accused of belonging to a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA.

McGinty, McFarland and Matthew McLean are also charged with preparation of terrorist acts. Three of the seven accused made bail applications on Monday—Coyle, James Ivor McLean and McGinty.

Lawyers for the three questioned the strength of the evidence against their clients.

MI5 'Approach'

McGinty’s solicitor also claimed that representatives from MI5 had approached his client while he was in police custody.

While a solicitor for Carron did not make a bail application, indicating it would be made at a later date, he did challenge the basis upon which police were connecting his client to the charges.

District judge Steven Keown refused bail for all three applicants on the grounds of risk of further offending and potential interference with the police investigation.

“This was clearly a meticulously planned attack, with the sad reality being that those involved in such attacks clearly hold the view that they will continue to engage in such attacks if they have the opportunity,” said the judge.

All seven were remanded in custody to appear before Omagh Magistrates’ Court, via videolink, on June 27.

James Ivor McClean and his two sons Robert and Matthew appeared before the court alongside McFarland, all via videolink from a police custody suite.

McGinty, Carron and Coyle then appeared separately, also from police custody.

Six of the accused spoke to confirm their age, addresses and that they understood the charges against them.

Carson did not respond when asked.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell pictured in Belfast on Nov. 17, 2020. (PA Media)
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell pictured in Belfast on Nov. 17, 2020. (PA Media)

‘Personal Element to Attack’

During the lengthy remand hearing covering the prosecution cases against the seven accused, a PSNI detective chief inspector set out the evidence police believe connects them to the charges they face.

He outlined details around the movements of three cars involved in the attack—a Mercedes and two Ford Fiestas—and other vehicles allegedly used in the subsequent clean-up and disposal operation.

The officer told the court how police have made various links, based on CCTV evidence, to the vehicles and the accused both in the lead up and the aftermath of the attack.

The detective also highlighted cartridge discharge residue (CDR) traces allegedly found on various items belonging to or associated with several of the accused.

These included particles detected on a hat allegedly owned by Carron that, the officer said, match CDR particles found on Caldwell’s clothes after he was shot.

The officer said police believe there was a “personal element” to the attack on Caldwell, telling the court the senior detective was “intimately involved” in investigations into several of the accused.

He said that a potential grudge against the PSNI detective was the “golden thread” linking a number of the accused.

“This has been a very wide-ranging conspiracy,” he added.

The detective said Caldwell was aware of several threats to his life dating back years.

He said there remains a “real concern” for his safety.

Caldwell spent several weeks in intensive care after the shooting.

He was later discharged from hospital and last week made his first public appearance since the attack when he attended a garden party at Hillsborough Castle as part of the visit of King Charles III and Queen Camilla to Northern Ireland.

The King held a short, private meeting with the detective—whose arm was pictured in bandages—prior to the event.

PA Media contributed to this report.
Patricia is an award winning journalist based in Ireland. She specializes in investigations and giving victims of crime, abuse, and corruption a voice.