Thursday 29 September 2016

Soldier who drove getaway car for bomb attack jailed for eight years

Greg Harkin

Published 29/04/2016 | 15:38

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A SOLDIER who admitted driving the getaway car for a bomb attack has been jailed for eight years after a judge said his experience in the Defence Forces was an aggravating matter in the case.

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Mark Cassidy, (31), then a private in the Irish defence Forces based at Finner Camp in Co Donegal, pleaded guilty to having an explosive device in the driveway of a home in Manorview, Letterkenny on November 22, 2013.

Cassidy, 31, from Ballyderowen, Burnfoot appeared was caught after an Improvised Explosve Device (IED) was found at his home.

Forensic experts linked that bomb to the one used in the Letterkenny bombing.

He is already serving a three-year sentence for Burnfoot offence and was discharged from the army when convicted in 2014.

Det Gda Michael Galvin said a Mercedes car parked at Cassidy’s home matched one captured on CCTV on the night of the attack on the home of the Coyle family.

He said that when Cassidy was questioned about the attack he claimed that he was taken at force by a masked man and ordered to drive to the Coyle family before a device was planted beneath Alan Coyle's jeep.

In his victim impact statement Alan Coyle said his life had been destroyed since the attack and that he had suffered a nervous breakdown and tried to take his own life.

His wife Geraldine said she did not leave her home for months after the attack.

She said damage to the family jeep and their home wasn’t covered by insurance as she had been told that it was an act of terrorism.

"Mr Cassidy needs to be held accountable for his actions,” she said.

The couple's teenage daughter Catherine said the attack was the worst night of her life.

"I felt completely unsafe in my home and I was worried it would happen again and that he would kill all of us," she said.

Defence barrister Peter Nolan said his client had served overseas in Chad and had suffered from post-traumatic stress even though he had never come under hostile enemy fire.

He said he also wanted to say that his client took the anti-malaria medication Lariam.

Judge John O’Hagan jailed Cassidy for eight years, suspending the final two years for a period of two years.

The judge said the Coyle family still didn’t know why they were targeted on the night of the bomb attack and their lives had been changed as a result of it.

He said Cassidy had served with distinction in the Defence Forces and had experience with munitions and explosives while serving in an artillery unit.

“The fact that he has used his profession as a soldier to be involved with this incident puts the case on the higher level of seriousness. It is an aggravating factor,” said Judge O’Hagan.

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