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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Real IRA bombers jailed
Robert (left) and Aiden Hulme
Robert (left) and Aiden Hulme, each jailed for 20 years
Five men who planned a dissident republican bombing campaign in England have been jailed for between 16 and 22 years.

Mr Justice Gibbs said the bombs had been "designed as threats to the country as a whole" and it was a "mercy" that no one had been killed.

The bombers struck on Saturday evenings at busy spots in major cities when many people were milling around or out enjoying themselves.

Their first attack was outside the BBC Television Centre, west London, in March 2001, then in Ealing Broadway, west London, in August and finally in Smallbrook, Queensway, Birmingham, in November.

Real IRA attacks
4 Mar 2001: Car bomb outside BBC TV Centre, White City, London. Tube worker injured.
15 Apr 2001: Bomb explodes near sorting office in Hendon, north London. No-one hurt.
6 May 2001: A second blast at Hendon sorting office. One man injured.
2 Aug 2001: Car bomb detonates in Ealing Broadway, west London. Several people injured.
3 Nov 2001: Bomb in Birmingham city centre fails to detonate properly. Minor injuries.

Robert Hulme, 23, and his brother Aiden, 25, were each jailed for 20 years.

Noel Maguire, 34, played "a major part in the bombing conspiracy", said the judge. He was sentenced to 22 years.

All three had denied conspiring to cause explosions between 1 January and 15 November, 2001, as part of a Real IRA bombing campaign.

They were convicted at the Old Bailey on Tuesday.

Two other men, James McCormack, 34, of County Louth, and John Hannan, 19, of Newtown Butler, County Fermanagh, had already admitted the charge at an earlier hearing.

McCormack, who played the most serious part of the five, the judge said, was jailed for 22 years.

Noel Maguire
Noel Maguire "played a major part in the plot"
Hannan, who was 17 at the time of the incidents, was given 16 years detention.

The bombs injured several people and caused damage costing millions of pounds.

The three devices were created with home-made explosive mixtures, had similar timing mechanisms and were each left in vehicles. The same code word was also used.

Although there was no direct evidence any of the defendants had physically set the bombs, a wealth of evidence suggested they were part of the team responsible, the court heard.

Fingerprints

Maguire's fingerprints were found on bank notes used to buy a taxi cab in which the White City bomb exploded.

The three who had denied the charges were also associated with the two self-confessed conspirators, Hannan and McCormack.

During the 10-week trial, the jury heard lengthy and complex mobile telephone evidence which showed links between the defendants and the explosions.

John Hannan and James McCormack
Hannan and McCormack admitted their part in the bombings
The plotters were discovered during an undercover Customs and Excise investigation into a fuel tax fiddle when equipment for a car bomb was found in a remote Yorkshire farmhouse.

Then a pensioner in north London recognised one of the men from an E-fit released after the Ealing bombing.

The jury heard how Aiden Hulme had been sent several text messages from Ireland on the day after the Ealing blast.

One said: "Up the Provos!" and was accompanied by an image of fizzing sticks of dynamite.

'Others still at large'

Mr Justice Gibbs told all five: "Beliefs and politics - if any - which provide the motive are irrelevant."

The explosive used in each bomb may have been home-made but it was high explosive, he said.

Anyone concerned in their manufacture or detonation "would know that death, injury or damage to property might result".

He was told by Detective Chief Inspector Kim Durham that others were also involved in the terror campaign - including organisers and bombers. They have not been caught yet.

The Real IRA, a dissident Irish republican group which refused to accept the Good Friday Agreement, hoped to bring about a united Ireland, or at least force the UK Government back to the negotiating table, using terror.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's June Kelly
"The bombers were caught on CCTV"



SEE ALSO:
On the bombers' trail
08 Apr 03  |  UK
Who are the Real IRA?
04 Nov 01  |  Northern Ireland
Timeline: Dissident republican attacks
02 Aug 02  |  Northern Ireland
Bomb blast outside BBC
04 Mar 01  |  UK News


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