The court case against the four men accused of attempting to kidnap dissident Republican Bobby Tohill, on 20th February 2004, actually began on Monday.. and ended today in Belfast Crown Court when, as the BBC report, they pleaded guilty.. and were released on bail until sentencing in the New Year with two further charges against the men – of false imprisonment and unlawful wounding – to remain on the books of the court.. UTV report here.. it’s worth noting that, although none of the available reports today mention the organisation involved, the Provisional IRA were named as being behind the attempt at the time, by the Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, and in the 1st IMC Report.The four who pleaded guilty are named in reports as Gerard McCrory, 33, from Dermott HIll Road, Harry Fitzsimmons, 36, from Spamount Street, Liam Rainey, 31, from New Barnsley Crescent and Thomas Tolan, 34, from Ballymurphy Parade.
From the 1st Independent Monitoring Commission report –
5. INCIDENT IN BELFAST ON 20 FEBRUARY 2004
5.1 We have examined a considerable number of individual incidents, but we have paid particular attention to the incident which took place in Belfast on 20 February 2004. This is for a number of reasons. Its timing was highly significant and it has been very widely seen as having a major impact on events in Northern Ireland. By its method it was intrinsically serious, though we recognise that its direct consequences were less severe than all too many other incidents. Moreover, both Governments have asked us specifically to examine the incident in the context of our first report.
5.2 The facts of the incident can be stated very briefly. At about 17.45 on 20 February 2004 four masked men entered a bar called Kelly’s Cellars in Bank Street, Belfast. They were all dressed in white forensic suits , balaclavas and surgical gloves. The four men very severely beat Robert Tohill who was in the bar. They then dragged him from the bar to the vehicle in which they had arrived and had parked nearby. They forced him into the vehicle and the five left in it, one of their number driving.
5.3 A member of the public who had seen the incident had meanwhile telephoned the police, and there happened to be a PSNI patrol vehicle in the vicinity. The two officers in this vehicle intercepted the vehicle containing Robert Tohill and arrested four men. The names of those arrested are Harry Fitzsimmons, Gerard McCrory, Liam Rainey and Thomas Tolan.
5.4 The four arrested men were subsequently remanded in custody on charges of causing grievous bodily harm, unlawful imprisonment and the possession of items likely to be of use to terrorists. Charges of membership of a proscribed organisation were withdrawn at first remand.
5.5 The cases of the arrested people are sub judice. In no circumstances should they be prejudiced. Article 13 of the International Agreement specifically requires the Commission to do nothing which would either prejudice a legal case or place anybody’s safety at risk. We are therefore heavily constrained in what we may say. We can however, address two key questions: was this incident the work of a paramilitary organisation and if it was, which one?
5.6 We have received information from a number of official and unofficial sources. We have carefully reviewed all of this material. We are conscious that we are not bound by the strict rules of evidence and that the material has not been subject to the testing one could expect in a criminal trial. We do however believe this material, taken as a whole, indicates that the operation was one planned and undertaken by the Provisional IRA.