A former Irish soldier was one of two alleged dissident IRA gunmen returned for trial on Tuesday by Enniskillen Magistrates' Court after a preliminary hearing into their case came to an unexpected end.
Ex-soldier Gerard James McManus and Kevin Barry Nolan deny attempting to murder a student police officer in the Fermanagh town of Garrison claiming they only meant to scare him and that they'd been put up to the prank by a police agent.
Nolan, (35) of Main Street, Blacklion, and 28-year-old McManus, from Fernhill, Letterkenny were detained during an undercover police operation during a shooting incident in Garrison on November 21, 2009.
They are charged with attempting to murder the student police officer and having a gun with intent to endanger life. McManus is further charged with using a gun to resist arrest.
Their preliminary hearing had been expected to last up until Friday of this week before District Judge Mervyn Bates.
Only one witness, a detective constable, gave evidence before the hearing became embroiled in legal argument over what questions defence lawyers could ask.
Barrister Mark Reel, for Nolan, told the court when it reconvened after lunch that he no longer required any other witnesses to give evidence in the case, a position "adopted" by solicitor Peter Corrigan, for McManus.
Mr Reel told District Judge Bates that given his ruling the defence were prevented from probing the nature of the operation that led to the arrest of the accused, the issue of any cross-border involvement , or that of the involvement of any informer.
The defence, he added, could not therefore ask any witness "to address the issue of entrapment".
Prosecution lawyer David Russell successfully applied for the men to be returned for trial on the grounds that the evidence of all other witnesses on the papers amounted to a prima facie case against them.
The District Judge who remanded both men back into custody, after granting them each legal-aid certificates for two counsel, returned them for trial to Belfast Crown Court, on a date to be fixed.
This was the fourth such preliminary hearing into the case to determine if they should be sent for trial before a Diplock Judge sitting alone without a jury.
At an earlier hearing the court heard that McManus and Nolan were allegedly spotted in a Vauxhall Astra approaching the student officer's home.
McManus, wearing a balaclava allegedly went to the front door, while Nolan remained in the front passenger seat of the Astra before police moved in.
The court also heard that as they did so McManus escaped, running down the side of the house firing off a shot, but that Nolan was apprehended in the Astra, sitting on a magazine, loaded with 16 rounds for a Glock pistol.
McManus was apprehended at 8am the following day, in a garden shed and while a mask and gloves were found in the shed, no gun was recovered.
During interview both men maintained they had no intention of harming the student police officer.
McManus told detectives: "There was no way I was going to shoot him .....I was going to fire a couple of shots in the air....to scare him, wanted to terrify him like."
In his interviews Nolan, whose alleged role was to give McManus directions, claimed that as far as he was concerned: "No harm was going to be caused," and that firing the gun was to, "put the frighteners on him".
Lawyers for the men told the court at the earlier hearing that their clients had been 'entrapped' by a person known to the authorities both in Northern Ireland and the Republic and it was he who had "coerced, cajoled" them into getting involved.