Northern Ireland

Vulnerable man facing firearms charges exploited by `cannibals to do their dirty work’

William McCune (45) told police he was disposing of the weapons as a go-between

General View of The Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast.
William McCune (45) told police he was disposing of the weapons

A vulnerable man stopped in a car loaded with guns and ammunition in Belfast has been exploited by “cannibals to do their dirty work”, a High Court judge said.

William McCune (45) told police he was disposing of the weapons as a go-between for his local community and the UDA.

But after his barrister described that account as fantasy, Mr Justice McAlinden was scathing of those he blamed for preying on someone with possible mental health issues.

“Quite clearly a vulnerable individual has been used by cannibals in society to do their dirty work, wrecking his life and potentially transporting weapons around Belfast for the purpose of enforcing their rule so they can run their drugs business,” the judge stated.

“They are absolutely shocking individuals and they need to be rooted out from our communities as quickly as possible.”

McCune, of Bentham Drive in Belfast, faces charges of possessing firearms in suspicious circumstances, and with intent to cause fear of violence.

He is further accused of having ammunition, a prohibited stun-gun, fireworks without a licence, and possessing both cocaine and cannabis.

Police on patrol in the Upper Lisburn Road area pulled over his car in the early hours of March 21 for failing to indicate, the court heard.

He told officers that a suitcase in the back of the vehicle may contain revolver guns.

The weapons were located along with more guns, ammunition, two balaclavas, a Taser, two small bags of suspected cocaine and a cannabis joint.

Follow-up searches at McCune’as home led to the discovery of parts for another shotgun, an air rifle and a UDA mirror and plaque.

During interviews McCune claimed that he acts as a “go-between” for the community in south Belfast and the UDA.

He told police that he had been approached by a school friend to dispose of items left for him in an alleyway and that he planned to hand over the haul to the authorities later the same day.

The defendant denied being a member of the UDA.

Opposing McCune’s application for bail, prosecution counsel said the guns were only discovered because a poor piece of driving led to a random stop on the street.

“He seems to be transporting items for (either a criminal group or paramilitaries),” the lawyer submitted.

Michael Boyd, defending, played down the credibility of his client’s “bizarre” initial account to police.

“The idea that he would be a go-between is a bit of a fantasy,” Mr Boyd submitted.

“The reality seems to be that he’s been asked by individuals to transport these items.”

During the hearing Mr Justice McAlinden expressed concern that McCune could face punishment from those believed to be using him.

“He’s lost their gear because he was a bit careless in his driving,” the judge pointed out.

“That might be worth one kneecap, maybe two.”

Adjourning the bail application, he requested checks to be made on available mental health services and a suitable address for the accused.