A SOLDIER who was found in possession of a pipe bomb and ammunition in a flat over a Burnfoot petrol station earlier this year has blamed an anti-malaria drug for the change to his personality.
Mark Cassidy (29) of Grianan Vale, Ballyderowen, Burnfoot, appeared before Letterkenny Circuit Court charged with possessing explosive substances.
Detective Sergeant Michael Carroll told the court that on February 16 this year, Gardai received confidential information to say there was a pipe bomb and ammunition stored in an apartment above a petrol station in Burnfoot. Preliminary surveillance was carried out and on February 17 Inspector Pat O’Donnell applied for warrants to search the apartments. During the search gardai found a number of black ‘firework type bangers’ as well as a pipe bomb in a press in a communal area at the top of the stairs.
Detective Sergeant Carroll said the area was rapidly evacuated once the discoveries were made and the Army Bomb Disposal team were called to the scene.
A further search the following day discovered a large quantity of assorted shotgun cartridges in the attic of a flat occupied by Cassidy, 29.
Cassidy was interviewed on six occasions by Garda and admitting having the pipe bomb and the shotgun cartridges in his possession.
Detective Sgt Mick Carroll said they still had no information as to what the explosive devices were going to be used for.
A bag containing overalls and balaclavas along with a small can of petrol were also found in the flat but there was no indication as to what they were being used for.
Barrister for Cassidy, Peter Nolan, said his client had been an exemplary soldier who had served overseas in Chad and was based at Finner Camp in Donegal when this incident happened.
Mr Nolan suggested there was a connection between his client being given the anti-malarial drug Lariam for Malaria while serving overseas and his change in personality. “He had a total change in personality. This drug is now banned by the US defence forces”.
Mr Nolan added: “My client is a reasonable individual who has admitted the charges.”
Detective Sergeant Carroll also said that Cassidy had no previous convictions for any offence on ether side of the border.
Judge Matthew Deery this was a very serious incident especially when the explosives were found in an apartment above a busy supermarket and petrol station.
Cassidy was sentenced to three years imprisonment on each charge to run concurrently. Judge Matthew Deery backdated the sentence to January 17th when Cassidy was first put placed in custody at Castlerea Prison.