Semtex in tea chest 'belonged to friend': Man denies IRA membership or involvement in bombing campaign

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The Independent Online
A LONDON sales executive who has admitted possessing Semtex explosives yesterday denied that he was a member of the IRA or part of a bombing campaign.

Vincent Wood, 29, of Leytonstone, east London, told the Old Bailey he had been asked to look after some possessions of a friend of his wife's brother, Gerald, who lived in Dublin. It was only when they arrived in a tea chest that he realised 'it was bombs and explosives'.

Mr Wood told the jury: 'I was shattered, very scared and very worried.' Asked by his counsel, Helena Kennedy QC, why he had not gone to the police, he said it would have been 'difficult' and added: 'You have to remember that this came from her (his wife's) brother. She was very . . . concerned about recriminations against him as a consequence of the predicament we were in.'

Mr Wood has admitted possessing the 17.5kg of explosives with unlawful intent, but denied having them with intent to cause explosions and endanger life or property. The prosecution has suggested that the constituency home of John Major in Huntingdon could have been a target: a partially-burnt map of the area with the Prime Minister's house marked was found at Mr Wood's home.

Ms Kennedy told the jury that Mr Wood was 'an ordinary man who was used' and was giving evidence knowing that 'beyond the courtroom door there are people waiting to see if you will tell it like it was, if you will dare to name the real offender'.

Under questioning, Mr Wood said he was brought up in London and had taken an interest in Irish affairs as well as causes like South Africa; he was a Labour Party supporter. His mother was of Irish descent and the family Roman Catholic. He had met his wife, Maraid, a nursing sister, at Gaelic classes. On a visit to her home in Ireland last summer her brother had made the request to him. 'He hoped it was OK that he had told a friend of his he could ship some stuff to our home in London while he travelled to London and found a home,' Mr Wood said.

Gerald told him to telephone the friend, 'Doc', at one of two public houses in Huntingdon the day after the tea chest arrived, but he had not done so because of his alarm at its contents.

They discussed dumping it on waste ground but thought it might be found by children; he went to bury it in Epping Forest, but had been unable to find an isolated location.

Saying he was 'panicked and paranoid' he had eventually left it with a friend who owned a business in Goodmayes, east London. Mr Wood and his wife were placed under police surveillance after the contents of the tea chest were discovered.

The trial continues today.

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