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Woman who lured police to her home with hoax 999 call in bid to kill them jailed for 16 years

Christine Connor also used photos of a Swedish model to dupe men online.

Christine Connor Christine Connor Source: PSNI

A 31-YEAR-OLD woman has been sentenced to 16 years and four months in prison for attempting to murder a police officer and other offences.

Christine Connor, from Belfast, pleaded guilty in May to attempting to murder a police officer in the Crumlin Road area of Belfast on 28 May 2013, as well as a number of other terrorism offences.

She also admitted possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on 16 and 28 May 2013, as well as preparation of terrorist acts between 1 February and 30 May 2013.

Connor was sentenced at Laganside Court today. Speaking after the ruling, Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch said: “Northern Ireland is a safer place with Christine Connor behind bars. She is a dangerous woman who exploited others to further her own twisted ideologies.”

Connor made two attempts at murdering police officers on separate dates. Both instances involved her making hoax 999 calls to lure them to where she was hiding.

The first attempt did not result in injury, although the improvised explosive devices did detonate. Connor said she used this failed attack as a ‘trial run’ for the attack on 28 May 2013 when she threw two IEDs at officers from the lane beside the house she had lured them to.

The PSNI has released audio of the 999 call made on the same date in which Connor can be heard claiming her name is Gemma and that her boyfriend has hit her.

Listen to it here:

Source: PoliceServiceNI/YouTube

In a statement, police said Connor “meticulously planned the attack on police officers who were attending what they thought was a genuine emergency call for help from a woman purporting to be in danger in her Crumlin Road home in the early hours of the morning on 28 May”.

Shrapnel 2 Shrapnel near the scene Source: PSNI

“Instead they were lured to a hoax call which ended in an attempt to murder them.

It is just sheer good fortune that they were not killed or seriously injured. What is clear though is the total disregard Christine had for the people within this community who also could have been seriously injured or killed. The shrapnel from the devices travelled up to 35 metres and was found lodged in the homes of local people.

A claim of responsibility for the 28 May attack made from a public phone box in the Shrewsbury area formed a major part of the PSNI’s enquiry. This resulted in the identification of Stuart Downes as a suspect.

This, together with CCTV evidence, resulted in the identification of Connor as a suspect and subsequent investigations provided the link between her and Downes.

Source: PoliceServiceNI/YouTube

Police said the devices she used were “sophisticated and primed to maim and murder”.

“However, good forensic work by detectives spanning over weeks and months, enabled them to connect Christine to these heinous crimes through a litany of evidence they uncovered.”

The evidence included the mobile phone Connor used to make the hoax 999 calls, which was found in a nearby garden.

Phone at scene Her phone Source: PSNI

In the alleyway beside the house she lured officers to, Connor left two woollen gloves from which police identified her DNA, as well as her footprint in dog excrement which was traced to boots found in her wardrobe.

Boot sole Her shoe Source: PSNI

Footwear mark at scene Her footprint Source: PSNI

A blue supermarket bag for life, which she is seen carrying in CCTV footage, was found in the same garden as the phone.

Police said she was not carrying this bag in CCTV footage that captured her fleeing the scene. They believe she used this to carry the devices.

Her hoodie, from which police identified her DNA, was found in a skip near the scene.

Hooded top in skip Her hoodie in a nearby skip Source: PSNI

Mattress 2 Her mattress Source: PSNI

Mattress Her mattress Source: PSNI

Mobile phones, laptops and sim cards were found hidden inside her mattress. She used these to communicate with her co-conspirator Downes.

Lured men online with photos of Swedish model

Police said Connors was “very cunning and duped a number of men through fake profile photographs on social media to become involved in her terrorist aspirations”.

She used photographs of Swedish model, fashion designer and blogger Sanne Alexandra Andersson without her knowledge or consent.

Downes was one of these men. He was a co-defendant, who also jointly faced five charges including attempted murder and possessing explosives and causing explosions with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property on 16 and 28 May 2013.

The 31-year-old from Meole Brace in Shrewsbury, England, was due to stand trial before he died by suspected suicide on 24 June 2016.

The PSNI said he “played a key part in the attacks, as we have evidence that he sourced component parts and shipped them to his Belfast accomplice”. Police also have footage from his phone showing him testing the explosive mix.

They said of Connor:

Her deceitfulness knew no bounds and by using a fictitious name and a profile picture that bore no resemblance to her when communicating online with Stuart Downes, she co-ordinated this sickening attack on officers who were simply carrying out their core job of protecting their community.

Connor also enticed an American man online. Police said they arrested and questioned Zachary Gevelinger after he visited her in Hydebank Prison on 6 July 2013.

They found correspondence from him in her house, as well as cheques he had sent her. The FBI searched Gevelinger’s house in the USA on the PSNI’s behalf and seized computer equipment which confirmed the link to Connor. He took his own life last month.

Connor also communicated with these men via a ‘United Struggle’ Facebook page which she created for her one-member organisation.

Neither of these men, who are now both deceased, had previous connections to Northern Ireland or to Northern Ireland-related terrorism.

Police said this case was “hugely complex and unusual and spanned over four years, involving UK police services working together to gather evidence in order to place this dangerous individual before the courts”.

“Working together, we have disrupted the activity of a dangerous individual and put her behind bars,” they added.

Read: Woman who set off bomb for ‘trial run’ in attempt to kill police officers pleads guilty

Read: Man in his 60s dies after truck collides with tractor

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Órla Ryan

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