'IRA terrorist shot unarmed officer in back at spot check': Constable escaped death by ducking as gun was fired, jury told

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The Independent Online
AN UNARMED policeman was shot in the back by one of two IRA terrorists after the officer had made a spot check on their lorry containing three tons of high explosives, an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Seconds before Constable Raymond Hall was hit, he had narrowly escaped death when an IRA terrorist pointed a gun at his face and fired from just one inch away; the officer ducked and the bullet grazed his skull, said John Bevan, for the prosecution.

The jury was told the officer had made a full recovery from his wounds, the second bullet passing right through his body without damaging vital organs.

Patrick Kelly, 41, has pleaded not guilty to attempting to murder PC Hall in November last year, possessing a revolver, conspiring to cause explosions and possessing explosives. The explosives were a mixture of ammonium nitrate and sugar, weighing 3.2 tons.

The jury was told that in the early hours of Saturday 14 November last year, PC Hall and PC Gary Angove were patrolling in the Hackney area of east London, when they became suspicious of a large blue lorry without identifying marks and with a partially obscured number plate. After following the lorry, they overtook the vehicle and brought it to a halt in nearby Stoke Newington.

The Crown claims Mr Kelly, arrested in the area shortly afterwards, was the driver of the lorry. Mr Kelly's accomplice, who the Crown says fired the shots at PC Hall, escaped. Mr Bevan said: 'The IRA planned to detonate an enormous bomb somewhere in London. It was carefully and deliberately disguised.'

As the officers approached the lorry, they realised its occupants had fled out of the passenger door. PC Hall gave chase in his car and was flagged down by a member of the public who had seen two men take cover behind a wall. PC Hall got out of his car and as he walked towards the wall, saw the two men approach him; they ignored his order to stop and as they walked past he grabbed one with each hand.

Mr Bevan said one was wearing a black top and the other a red one. 'Black top' pulled a gun out and pointed it at the officer's nose, holding it just one inch away. 'He thought he was going to be killed. He immediately ducked his head. At that moment the gun was fired in his face at point-blank range. Fortunately his instinctive reaction of ducking caused the bullet to hit him on the top of his head, scrape along his scalp and fly off.'

PC Hall broke free and attempted to take cover behind some cars. 'He had taken no more than a few paces when he heard the gun fired again. This was a straightforward attempt . . . to shoot that defenceless officer in the back.'

The two men then failed in an attempt to hijack a car containing a man, his wife and their young baby. Mr Bevan said the couple had told police the man wearing the red top was carrying the gun on this occasion. It was the Crown's case that 'red top' was Mr Kelly.

Mr Kelly was arrested a short distance away wearing just a shirt and trousers and carrying pounds 350, and pounds 470 worth of Northern Irish pounds. He was unable to give any explanation as to where he had come from and was lightly dressed despite the freezing weather.

Mr Bevan said that although it was 'common sense' that Mr Kelly was the driver of the lorry, scientific evidence would link him with the vehicle.

The trial continues today.