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Lorry driver who allegedly vandalised Narrow Water memorial while chatting on phone refused bail

The High Court in Belfast

A LORRY driver who allegedly vandalised a memorial to murdered British soldiers while chatting on his phone must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled today.

Robert James McKeegan (44) was refused bail amid claims he kicked over poppy crosses and wreathes at the shrine to the Narrow Water massacre.

Eighteen soldiers were killed in two IRA bomb attacks at the site near Warrenpoint, Co Down in August 1979.

McKeegan, of Beech Close in Bleary, Craigavon, is charged with criminal damage to the memorial, which belongs to the Royal British Legion, on October 4.

He faces a further count of having an indecent photograph of a child on a phone seized last week by police investigating the attack.

The case against him involves CCTV images from cameras installed in the area following previous acts of vandalism, the court heard.

Crown counsel said: "One male exited the lorry while chatting on a mobile phone, kicking crosses and wreathes off display and damaging the memorial."

The incident on the main Newry to Warrenpoint Road occurred at 7.30am, lasting for three minutes before the perpetrator drove off.

Dash cam footage was examined as part of inquiries to locate the lorry involved.

McKeegan was then arrested after being stopped on the M1 last Wednesday.

It was claimed that his T-shirt appeared to be the same type as that worn by the man depicted in the CCTV images.

A phone recovered by police allegedly contained an indecent image - although the defence contended that it was more of a "vulgar" photo than actual pornography.

Mr Justice McAlinden was told McKeegan remained silent during most of his interviews.

Cell-site analysis is being carried out in a bid to establish the location of the accused's phone at the time of the attack.

But the prosecution said the whereabouts of tachograph charts for the lorry remains unknown.

Defence counsel argued those records, if located, will not prove if his client was at the scene.

He described the black and white CCTV stills of clothing allegedly linked to McKeegan as "another piece of weak evidence".

But denying bail, the judge cited the risk of interference with the course of justice based on the missing charts.

Noting the dismay and offence caused by previous attacks on the shrine, Mr Justice McAlinden said the latest alleged offence was "utterly inexplicable".

He added: "How anyone in their right mind could engage again in wanton destruction of the memorial at this location at this particular time is something which just beggars belief."

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