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IRA trial defendant 'feared for children'

A MAN accused of being a member of an IRA gang that blew up a gasworks and shot a policeman told police about an explosives cache because he feared for the safety of children who played near by, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

At first, John Kinsella, 49, said he believed that the sports bag he had been duped into hiding merely contained stolen candlesticks, and had only begun to suspect the contents after his arrest.

But later, while in prison awaiting trial, Mr Kinsella slashed his throat with the lid of a salmon tin after he was approached by a man who warned him against giving evidence against the IRA. He said he had no idea that the men who paid him to look after the bag, Pairic MacFhloinn and Michael Timmins, whom he met through his nephew, Denis Kinsella, were in the IRA. The Crown alleges that Mr MacFhloinn, Mr Timmins and Denis Kinsella were part of an IRA active service unit that planted three bombs and incendiary devices on gas tanks in Warrington, Cheshire.

As they made their escape they were stopped by police and shot Constable Mark Toker three times at point-blank range. Mr MacFhloinn and Denis Kinsella were captured after a high-speed chase, but Mr Timmins escaped.

Mr MacFhloinn, 40, from Dublin, and Denis Kinsella, 25, from Nottingham, deny causing an explosion, attempting to murder PC Toker, causing him grievous bodily harm, kidnapping a motorist, Lee Wright, and possession of a firearm.

John Kinsella, also from Nottingham, denies possessing Semtex explosive. He said his suspicions were only raised when police began to question him. He told officers the bag was buried in his allotment. 'There was a football pitch near the allotment and children played there and people walked past. There was no way I could keep quiet.'

The Irish broadcaster and writer, Tim Pat Coogan, author of The IRA, a book considered to be the definitive history of the organisation, was asked about artefacts made by prisoners in the Maze jail. In a photograph album found at John Kinsella's home was a picture of him and others sitting under such an artefact. John Kinsella has denied throughout his evidence that he has links with the IRA.

Mr Coogan, from Dublin, said he believed the display of such artefacts did not necessarily indicate support or sympathy for the IRA.

The trial continues today.