A Northern Ireland teenager charged with the dissident IRA killing of a policeman had an assault rifle and 26 rounds of ammunition — and refused to say a word to his interrogators during 13 days of questioning, a detective testified today at the defendant's first court appearance.
Court officials and police said they would not publicly identify the accused boy because he is 17.
The boy was arrested on 10 March in a working-class Catholic district of Craigavon, a day after a policeman, 48-year-old Stephen Carroll, was shot fatally through the back of the head after responding to an emergency call in the religiously divided town. He was the first policeman killed in Northern Ireland since 1998, the year of the landmark peace accord between the territory's British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority.
The boy is the first person to face charges following this month's surge in violence by Irish Republican Army dissidents trying to unravel the peace process. Eight other people remain in custody over the killing of the policeman and a 7 March gun attack outside a British Army base that killed two off-duty, unarmed soldiers — the first troops killed in Northern Ireland since the IRA's 1997 cease-fire.
The boy didn't speak during the brief hearing at Lisburn Magistrates Court southwest of Belfast.
His lawyer, Paddy Moriarty, said his client intended to plead not guilty to all four charges against him: murder, possessing an assault rifle and ammunition, collecting information likely to be of use to terrorists, and membership in an outlawed splinter group called the Continuity IRA.
A policeman who is part of the team of detectives questioning all of the suspects, Detective Inspector John Caldwell, testified that detectives had interviewed the defendant more than 15 times but elicited no response, just silent stares at the walls and ceiling.
"He refused to speak throughout the interviews," Caldwell said.
Typically, IRA anti-interrogation training emphasises that members under interrogation should not engage in even friendly chitchat with detectives, to avoid the risk of providing damaging information by accident.
The judge, Magistrate Rosie Watters, ordered the defendant to be held without bail pending his next court appearance on 1 April.