Celtic manager Neil Lennon bomb plotters jailed

 

Two men who sent parcel bombs to Celtic manager Neil Lennon and other high-profile fans of the club have been jailed for five years each.

Trevor Muirhead, 44, of Kilwinning, and Neil McKenzie, 42, of Saltcoats, both Ayrshire, plotted to assault Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman and the late QC Paul McBride, as well as people at the republican organisation Cairde Na hEireann, by sending devices they believed were capable of exploding and causing severe injury.

They were sentenced to five years each for the charge at the High Court in Glasgow.

Both were originally accused of a more serious charge of conspiring to murder their targets but it was thrown out a day before the trial concluded due to insufficient evidence.

McKenzie was also sentenced to 18 months, which will run at the same time as his five-year sentence, after being found guilty of a separate charge of posting a hoax bomb to Lennon at Celtic Park to make him believe it was likely to explode.

Muirhead was cleared of the charge with a not proven verdict.

Sentencing them today, trial judge Lord Turnbull said their actions were "incomprehensible".

Muirhead and McKenzie were convicted last month following a five-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The jury heard that McKenzie told police he learned how to make a hoax bomb after seeing it on the 1980s TV show The A-Team.

Giving evidence during the trial, Lennon said he was left "very disturbed" after finding out he had been targeted.

The assault plot centred on four suspicious packages, all of them non-viable, which were discovered last spring.

A second device sent to Lennon at Celtic's training ground in Lennoxtown, East Dunbartonshire, was intercepted at a sorting office in Kirkintilloch on March 26 last year when a postman spotted a nail protruding from it.

It tested positive for peroxide, which can be used to make explosives.

Two days later a package delivered to Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, caused the evacuation of the building.

Liquid inside a plastic bottle within the package tested positive for a small amount of the primary explosive triacetone triperoxide.

Before the incident, Ms Godman, who was Labour MSP for West Renfrewshire, had been filmed wearing a Celtic strip to the Scottish Parliament, which she claimed was meant to be a private matter.

Also on March 28, a postman tried to deliver a package to Cairde Na hEireann in Glasgow's Gallowgate.

After two failed attempts, it was sent to the Royal Mail's National Returns Centre in Belfast, where it was found to contain potentially explosive peroxide.

The final package, found on April 15 in a postbox on Montgomerie Terrace, Kilwinning, was addressed to the late Mr McBride.

The lawyer, who died suddenly days before he was due to give evidence at the trial, was known to have represented Lennon and Celtic.

McKenzie blew a kiss to his family as he was led away from the dock while Muirhead looked at the floor and shook his head.

The judge, Lord Turnbull, had told them he could not "fathom what was in your minds" when they decided to send the packages.

He said: "It is incomprehensible that two such family men, in their 40s, would engage in such reckless and serious criminal conduct."

He added: "Even the sending of a package as a bomb hoax would always be a serious offence and would be bound to result in a custodial sentence - that is because of the widespread disruption and anxiety caused by such conduct.

"You have both been convicted of conspiring to assault a number of members of the public by dispatching items through the post which contained various items which you believed comprised improvised explosive devices capable of igniting and exploding and causing serious injury to others.

"It is obvious that I am not dealing with what would be thought of as acts of terrorism at all.

"I can't fathom what was in your minds to act as you did. It is important though, I think, that I both recognise and state something about your conduct which may not always have been obvious in comments made in the aftermath of your convictions.

"The evidence ... in your trial made it clear beyond any doubt that the devices which you sent could not have exploded under any reasonably contemplated circumstances.

"There was quite simply no relevant sense that it could be said that any explosive material was present. There was also no form of detonator or method of causing ignition.

"There was no risk of injury to anyone beyond the risk of some accidental contact with nails present in the various packages - and these aspects are taken into account in deciding the appropriate sentence."

Members of McKenzie's family appeared unhappy with the sentence handed down.

Leaving court, a man who identified himself as McKenzie's brother shook his head and said: "If that's what they call justice - did the judge not listen to the evidence?"

PA

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