Video: Bungling Rangers fans convicted of Neil Lennon parcel bomb plot
Published 31/03/2012 | 05:00
Two middle-aged men were yesterday convicted of plotting to harm Neil Lennon, the Glasgow Celtic manager, and other high profile supporters of the club using crude, homemade parcel bombs.
Trevor Muirhead and Neil McKenzie sent devices packed with nails that they wrongly believed were capable of exploding to a series of targets, the most high-profile of which was Mr Lennon.
The other intended recipients were Trish Godman, a former member of the Scottish parliament, Paul McBride, one of Scotland's best known QCs before his recent death, and members of an Irish republican organisation.
Muirhead (44), from Kilwinning, Ayrshire in Scotland, and McKenzie (42), from nearby Saltcoats, were originally accused of conspiring to murder their targets but the charge was thrown out earlier this week due to insufficient evidence.
Their defence lawyers argued the pair had posted devices they knew to be hoaxes to scare and frighten their targets but not physically harm them. One package did not have enough stamps, another smelt of petrol and a third had a wire that fell out.
However, their trial heard how they had warned Muirhead's son not to walk in the direction of a nearby post box that contained the McBride device. "If you hear a bang in the night don't open the curtains," McKenzie told him.
The jury at the High Court in Glasgow took only two-and-a-half hours yesterday to convict both men, who are ardent Glasgow Rangers supporters, of conspiring to assault their intended victims.
McKenzie was also found guilty of posting an item to Mr Lennon at Celtic Park with the intention of making him believe it was likely to explode or ignite and cause injury or damage to property.
The jury returned a "not proven" verdict for Muirhead on this charge. Judge Lord Turnbull said they had been convicted of "unusual but serious offences" and deferred sentence until April 27.
Speaking after the verdict, Detective Chief Superintendent John Cuddihy, the senior investigating officer, said the pair had been convicted of "the most cowardly and reckless of crimes".
"They had no thought for the very many people in the postal service and administrative offices who may have been injured or maimed by handling these packages," he added.
"Their actions certainly have nothing to do with football and everything to do with mindless hate."
The first package was sent to Mr Lennon on March 3 last year, the day after he had a touchline confrontation with Ally McCoist, then Rangers' assistant manager, following an ill-tempered cup match. Over the next six weeks four more were sent, including another to Mr Lennon at Celtic's training ground that contained tri-acetone tri-peroxide (TATP), a volatile homemade explosive.
Two days later a third package, also containing a very small amount of TATP, was sent to Ms Godman's constituency office in Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire.
A device containing a bottle of peroxide was sent to Cairde Na hEireann but was intercepted at a postal returns depot in Belfast after it could not be delivered.
The final package was addressed to Mr McBride at Edinburgh's Advocates' Library last April. It was discovered in a postbox in Kilwinning and contained petrol, nails and a wire.
Detectives launched a major manhunt, focusing on where the contents of the devices had been bought and the packages posted. They trawled through thousands of receipts and hours of CCTV images before pinpointing footage of McKenzie buying plastic travel bottles, padded envelopes and a watch from a local discount shop.
He was also spotted purchasing nails from a B&Q on 14 April, the day before the package for Mr McBride was found in a postbox.
Police bugged his car and secretly recorded a man identified as him saying he had told someone how to make a bomb. Officers also heard men discussing "planting" something outside a police station.
A search of Muirhead's house uncovered petrol cans, black wire, a bottle of cream peroxide, two flags featuring the Red Hand of Ulster and a mobile phone text message referring to "our package".
Forensic experts originally told Strathclyde Police the devices were dangerous, but the trial heard their electronic parts, including wires and cheap digital watches, could not act as detonators.
McKenzie admitted to police that he had constructed a "hoax bomb" posted to Mr Lennon at Celtic Park and claimed he had learned to build it from watching 'The A-Team', a 1980s TV show. (© Daily Telegraph, London)