The Royal Marine who has been arrested by officers probing dissident republican terrorism was the victim of a sectarian attack in Larne 14 years ago, it has been claimed.
Ciaran Maxwell, 30 and from Larne, was detained in Somerset by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s Counter Terrorism Command on Wednesday.
It has been claimed that Mr Maxwell joined the armed forces to “get away from Larne” after he was attacked by loyalists with iron bars and golf clubs at the age of 16.
Mr Maxwell, a former pupil of St Comgall’s College, was reported to have suffered a compound fracture of the skull as well as other injuries to his body and face.
The attack on Mr Maxwell in July 2002 was reported at the time in the republican newspaper An Phoblacht.
An article stated that Mr Maxwell (whose Christian name it spelled ‘Kieran’ rather than ‘Ciaran’) had been attacked while walking Old Glenarm Road in the town.
The paper reported: “He was struck by a bottle and fell under the blow. Kieran struggled to his feet and despite losing a shoe, tried to run away. At this point up to ten loyalists arrived in two cars. This gang was armed with iron bars and golf clubs and they immediately attacked Kieran. He was beaten to the ground and lost consciousness.”
According to the paper, eyewitnesses said that loyalists had seemed to be waiting in ambush and kept beating Ciaran “as he lay prone on the ground”.
The republican paper also claimed that an Army patrol in the area had failed to intervene.
Mr Maxwell’s parents had felt “angry and frustrated that Catholics in Larne were under constant threat and nothing was being done about it”, the article said.
It added: “They were critical of the RUC/PSNI, who they say don’t treat attacks on Catholics seriously”.
One local man who knows Mr Maxwell’s family told the Larne Times: “Ciaran is from a mixed background, his mother is Catholic and dad is Protestant.
“He grew up in the Seacourt estate and was absolutely tortured by the UDA when he was a teenager.
“He was regularly chased off the street by loyalists. On one occasion they gave him a very bad beating and left him in a very bad way.
“Larne was a very different place in those days.
“It raised a few eyebrows loaclly when Ciaran went off to join the British Army.
“I think he did it to get away from Larne.”
Mr Maxwell was arrested in a pre-planned swoop in Somerset on Wednesday.
Police have searched a number of properties in the Old Glenarm Road area of Larne.
The operation also involved searches at a house and wooded area in south Devon.
Mr Maxwell is believed to live at the address in Exminster with his partner and a young child.
The arrest is understood to be linked to the discovery of two arms dumps near Larne earlier this year at Carnfunnock Country Park and Capanagh Forest.