Neil Lennon ‘bomb’ trial: Celtic manager feared for safety of his young son

NEIL Lennon told a trial he had been left “very disturbed” after finding out he had been the target of suspect packages sent through the post.

The Celtic manager was giving evidence yesterday at the trial of two men accused of plotting to kill him and other high-profile supporters of the club in an explosives plot.

Trevor Muirhead, 43, from Kilwinning, and Neil McKenzie, 42, from Saltcoats, both Ayrshire, are on trial at the High Court in Glasgow accused of conspiring to murder Mr Lennon, former MSP Trish Godman, the late Paul McBride, QC, and various members of the Irish Republican group Cairde Na hEireann in Glasgow by sending improvised explosive devices to them.

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The two deny all the charges against them.

Mr Lennon told the trial he had been made aware of the packages by police.

He said: “I was very disturbed. I have a family. I have a young son. I have a partner, a mother and a father.

“I’m a footballing man. I find it difficult to comprehend the lengths that some people will go to.”

Mr Lennon said he had previously been sent bullets through the post and had decided to stop playing for Northern Ireland after receiving a death threat.

He said he had experienced sectarianism as a player and a manager “nearly every week”. Celtic “abhor” sectarianism and “try to do everything they can” to stop it.

The 40-year-old, who grew up in Lurgan, Northern Ireland, also told the court some Celtic supporters tended to side with Irish republicanism.

Mr Lennon was asked a number of questions about sectarianism by advocate depute Tim Niven-Smith. He told him: “I can’t speak for Rangers supporters, you’ll have to ask them yourself. I can’t speak for the majority of Celtic fans either.

“I don’t understand the relevance of your questions. I’m not a politician.”

Mr Lennon was also asked about his relationship with the late Mr McBride, who had represented Celtic on disciplinary matters, and was also an alleged target of the plot. He said the QC, who was found dead in his hotel room in Lahore, Pakistan, on 4 March, was a “very close friend”.

He was “huge, just a brilliant man and very inspirational”, the Celtic manager said.

He added: “I loved being in his company, regardless of where we were or what we were doing. [He was] legally brilliant as a person, it’s difficult to put into words.”

Mr Lennon went on to say Mr McBride was one of the only two people to have inspired him in his life, the other being Martin O’Neill, who was manager of Celtic when he was a player.

After Mr Lennon finished his evidence, judge Lord Turnbull told the jury they should take Mr Lennon’s “own views of Mr McBride’s personal qualities” out of their mind.

He said it was “no criticism” of the advocate depute, or of Mr Lennon, but they should base their decision only on the evidence led, and not on sympathy for anyone involved in the case.

Ms Godman also gave evidence yesterday. The former MSP is also alleged to have been sent a suspect package.

The trial has previously heard evidence from her personal assistant, Evelyne Campbell, who said the parcel was sent to her constituency office.

Ms Godman, 72, was shown on television wearing a Celtic top to the Scottish Parliament on her last day as an MSP. She told the court it had been meant as a “private, light-hearted challenge”.

The trial continues.