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Co Armagh man who went to park to feed ducks acquitted of possessing handgun

A Co Armagh man who went to the park to feed the ducks but who found himself charged with possessing a handgun was unanimously acquitted of the charge on Tuesday..

The Newry Crown Court jury, sitting in Craigavon, deliberated for half an hour before returning with their unanimous not guilty verdicts on both charges against Colm McDonald, acquitting the 31-year-old of possessing a 9mm self-loading, semi automatic pistol under suspicious circumstances and having the gun without a firearms certificate.

During the week-long hearing, a trial the media had been barred from reporting, the jury heard how two undercover police officers were at Bessbrook Park on December 2, 2021 when they saw a male dropping an item from what appeared to be an orange Sainsbury’s shopping bag.

The male walked on and when police looked to see what the item was, it turned out to be a handgun wrapped in brown parcel tape.

An examination of the weapon established the gun had originally been built to fire blanks but with it’s serial numbers and other identifying marks filed off, it had been modified to fire 9mm cartridges and when test fired, it was found to function successfully.

Meanwhile McDonald, dressed in a padded jacket and tracksuit bottoms, had made his way back to the Nissan Qashqai he had driven into the park and when officers arrested him and searched the vehicle which was registered to his father, officers uncovered an orange bag for life in the boot.

When McDonald himself was searched officers found he had rolls of Euros and Sterling notes amounting to just over 1,400 in his pocket and during police interviews, he claimed he had driven to the park “to do sprints” and had taken a couple of slices of bread with him “to feed the ducks”.

He also claimed he had used his dad’s car because his “had been blocked in” and when he got there he had spotted two men who “looked a bit dodgy so he decided to stay out of their way”.

McDonald, originally from the Drumalane Road in Newry but bailed to an address in Craigavon, did not give evidence to the jury on his own behalf but defence KC Kevin Magill argued that in addition to the undercover officers’ evidence “lacking in details,” he told the jury there was no evidence to “exclude the possibility the gun was already there” before McDonald arrived to feed the ducks.

Following the not guilty verdicts, Judge Paul Ramsey KC thanked for jury for their service, told McDonald he was free to go and formally lifted the reporting restriction he had imposed when the trial began a week ago.

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