Monday, 27 February 2012

HMA vs Muirhead and McKenzie Day 1 Afternoon

The High Court of Justiciary

After the lunch adjournment Lord Turnbull re-convened the court at 2pm and the Advocate Depute, Tim Niven-Smith called his next witness, Shona Blacklock. Ms Blacklock told the jury that she was a Force support officer for the Scottish police services authority and in this capacity had been called to Saltcoats Royal Mail sorting office on the 4th March 2011 to take photographs of the contents of a suspicious package. Ms Blacklock confirmed that photos shown to the court were the ones she had taken that day and then stepped down from the witness box.

Next to be called was Inspector Brian Ferguson of Strathclyde police. Inspector Ferguson confirmed that he was a "Search advisor" for the force and as such had been trained in "counter-terrorism,  the evaluation of suspicious packages and the recognition of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) The witness told the court he had been called into the Royal Mail office in Salcoats where he was asked to look at a "jiffy style package" that was addressed to Neil Lennon and had nails protruding from it. 

The Inspector told the court that he had noticed that the writing on the package was unusual as, in his opinion, it appeared to have a "aspect of disguising" to it. Perhaps involving someone right handed who was using their left hand to address the envelope. He also noticed a wire running under the flap of the envelope suggesting, the witness stated, as possible "victim operated" device.  Asked what action he took Inspector Ferguson told the court that he had with him a portable x-ray device that should have allowed him to examine the contents of the package. However this was "malfunctional" and would not operate. So he decided to "open it basically," so he could evaluate if it was an IED. The inspector added that as the parcel had been "dropped in a postbox" without detonating he did not consider it "fragile". He then used a small pair of scissors to create a flap away from any seals in the envelope so he could examine it properly.

Inspector Ferguson then described what he found inside the package. He told the court he found a "putty like substance" and a "digital reader" but these were "not attached to anything" and as there was nothing that could act as a detonator the parcel was "not a viable device" and was "incapable of exploding." The inspector however agreed that any recipient of such a parcel may well have concluded it was a bomb.

Donald Findlay QC then rose to cross-examine the witness. He began by asking the inspector that the nails protruding from the envelope made it "clearly suspicious" to any observer and that there was very little chance that such a package would ever reach its "intended recipient" adding that anyone looking at it would wonder "why the manager of Celtic was ordering so many loose nails". Inspector Ferguson agreed that the chance of it reaching its target was "probably quite low". Mr Findlay then suggested that if someone wished a parcel to reach Neil Lennon they "don't send it looking like that" to which the Inspector agreed. Mr Findlay then ended his cross-examination and Inspector Ferguson stepped down from the stand.

The court then heard from Police constables Donna Jenkins and Dean Kerr who confirmed the accounts of Sgt Reid and Inspector Ferguson. 

The final witness of the day was Martin Mulgrew (32) a postal worker in the Kirkintilloch Royal mail offices. Mr Mulgrew confirmed that his office delivered mail to Celtic Football club's Lennoxtown training ground and was then asked about an incident in that office, also in March 2011, when a colleague asked him about a parcel, addressed to Neil Lennon at the "Celtic Training Centre" which appeared to have nails protruding from it. Mr Mulgrew told the court he had taken the parcel to the depot manager. When asked Mr Mulgrew stated he could not say what happened after that as he then left the depot to complete his deliveries. Mr Mulgrew then stood down from the stand and as the Crown had no further witnesses to present today the court adjourned until tomorrow morning.
The trial, before Judge Turnbull, continues.

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