Gun attack accused 'part of Lithuanian drugs gang'

Police at the scene where a man was shot in Newry's Sandys Street on September 17. Picture by Mal McCann
Police at the scene where a man was shot in Newry's Sandys Street on September 17. Picture by Mal McCann

A Lithuanian man accused of the attempted murder of two shooting victims in Newry is part of an international drug smuggling gang, it has been claimed.

Standing in the dock of Newry Magistrates Court yesterday, 26-year-old Ramunas Macnoris spoke only to confirm his personal details and that he understood the seven charges against him.

Macnoris, with an address at Lambfield House in Dungannon, is charged with two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping one of the alleged victims, possessing a handgun with intent to commit attempted murder, and driving while disqualified, without insurance and without a licence.

Two 32-year-old men were shot in quick succession at Sandys Street and Armagh Road in Newry in the early hours of last Thursday.

A detective sergeant said police were objecting to bail amid fears the accused could reoffend, flee the country or interfere with witnesses.

Claiming that Macnoris is part of "a Lithuanian organised crime gang involved with the importation and distribution of drugs", the officer said the first alleged victim was kidnapped from his home in Ardfield Avenue in Warrenpoint before being driven to Newry when he was apparently dumped out of a VW Passat and shot in the leg.

He told the court the witness had given a statement that he had been "on the run from the Lithuanian mafia for three years" over an alleged drug deal and that a man he named as 'Kundas' had confronted him at his front door, pointed a black handgun at him "and told him to come quietly".

Bundled into the back seat of the Passat, allegedly driven by Macnoris, the detective said 'Kundas' demanded the man hand over £5,000 and gave him a phone to get the money but when the victim said he couldn't get it, "Kundas said he would be killed".

He was shot in the leg on the Armagh Road and police were alerted when a member of the public found him.

The officer said the second shooting victim opened his front door at Sandys Road to a man allegedly armed with a handgun and attached silencer.

Crime scene investigators had examined bullet casings and the caliber was "typically used by Eastern block countries as service weapons".

There were also numerous sightings of the Passat and a Volvo car in an apparent convoy on CCTV footage around the city at the time.

Macnoris was arrested on Thomas Street in Dungannon and the court heard that a search of a vehicle revealed a "sophisticated hide" where the passenger air bag should have been.

It was capable of being locked and unlocked using electro magnets operated by the air bag button and inside police found a "flick baton and a quantity of white powder".

The officer said Macnoris refused to answer police questions or take part in a police line up but in "covert proceedings", the man allegedly kidnapped had identified him as the driver.

Despite defence submissions that Macnoris could be released with stringent conditions including staying 40 miles away from Newry, District Judge Paul Copeland refused to grant bail.