Detective Chief Superintendent John Caldwell (Brian Lawless:PA)Detective Chief Superintendent John Caldwell (Brian Lawless:PA)


Used car dealer among group accused of attempted murder of top NI police officer

  • High-ranking police officer was shot in Omagh last February
  • Jonathan McGinty is said to have provided a Mercedes as a ‘clean-up car’
  • He is also accused of the preparation of terrorist acts
  • Defence counsel tells bail hearing evidence is too weak for prima facie case
  • Judge adjourns matter to examine reports and CCTV footage before making decision

Time 10:50 am, January 12, 2024

A used car dealer stands accused of trying to kill a high-ranking officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Jonathan McGinty is among seven men charged with the attempted killing of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in Omagh, Co Tyrone, last February.

The officer, pictured above, was seriously wounded after being repeatedly shot by two men in front of his son, having just coached a youth football team in the town, and was in hospital for almost two months, daily publication the News Letter said in a report on a bail application hearing.

The New IRA admitted responsibility, but police believe other criminal factions were involved with the dissident republicans as well.

McGinty, 29, is said to have provided a ‘clean-up car’ as part of a co-ordinated plan to murder the detective. He is also accused of the preparation of terrorist acts.

It’s alleged that he registered a Mercedes C-Class saloon to his address under a false name and picked up another suspect on the day the DCI was shot.

The car allegedly arrived at another defendant’s address less than a quarter of an hour after the attack and two masked men wearing similar dark clothing to that of the attackers got out and ran in the direction of a back garden.

The Mercedes was then valeted and swapped for a van before being sold on in March, it’s claimed. However, an ‘indicative particle’ of possible cartridge discharge residue was still found in it following a forensic examination.

The gunmen were said to have fled in a Ford Fiesta that was subsequently found on fire.

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Two mobile phones were found at McGinty’s home in St Julians Downs, Omagh, although he had denied owning one, the News Letter said. The High Court was told that McGinty had refused to reveal the phones’ PIN codes.

The News Letter said Mr Justice O’Hara was told by the prosecuting counsel, who opposed bail: ‘This was a sophisticated and well-organised crime.

‘It was a well-planned, co-ordinated effort to murder a senior police officer, and it’s only by sheer good fortune the attack was unsuccessful.’

However, defence counsel Karl McGuckin claimed the evidence against McGinty was too weak to support a prima facie case. It included some CCTV clips that were of too poor quality to be of use in identifying the vehicle.

When McGuckin was asked about claims that McGinty used a fake name to register the Mercedes, the News Letter quoted him as saying: ‘My understanding is that he’s involved in flipping cars and in doing that saves on tax. It isn’t the crime of the century.’

The judge adjourned the case so that he could examine the CCTV footage and expert reports before making a decision.

According to a PSNI bulletin published last Friday, there were 33 shooting incidents in Northern Ireland during 2023, including the shooting of DCI Caldwell, versus 29 in the previous 12 months.

Image credit: Brian Lawless/PA

John Bowman's avatar

John has been with Car Dealer since 2013 after spending 25 years in the newspaper industry as a reporter then a sub-editor/assistant chief sub-editor on regional and national titles. John is chief sub-editor in the editorial department, working on Car Dealer, as well as handling social media.

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