Northern Ireland news

West Belfast man caught 'red-handed' trying to burgle house in Newry, court told

Edward McKay (54), of Shaws Court in west Belfast, faces charges of criminal damage and attempted burglary with intent to steal

A west Belfast man was allegedly caught "red-handed" trying to burgle a house in Newry where a shotgun had been stored, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors said police discovered Edward McKay (54) holding a chisel while a crowbar was wedged into the door of the property.

It was claimed that he had travelled 40 miles to try to break into the home at Glen Villas during the early hours of October 24.

McKay, of Shaws Court, faces charges of criminal damage and attempted burglary with intent to steal.

Police were alerted after a woman spotted a masked man outside her 65-year-old neighbour's house shortly after he had left for work, the court was told.

Minutes later officers arrived at the scene and arrested McKay.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire claimed he was wearing gloves and a balaclava, and dropped a chisel from his hands.

A crowbar had been wedged into the door frame in an attempt to gain entry, according to the prosecution.

Opposing bail, Mr Maguire contended: "There's some significance to the fact the householder was a licensed firearm holder, in respect of a shotgun."

He added: "This occurred in the early hours of the morning, the applicant had travelled over 40 miles from his home to this rural location. That shows considerable intent on his part."

Mark Farrell, defending, insisted there was no evidence the house had been targeted because of the presence of a gun.

"There's a strong case that he's caught red-handed," the barrister said.

But he rejected the suggestion that any attempted burglary was in "the hunt for a lethal weapon".

Mr Justice McAlinden also heard how McKay suffered a double bereavement earlier this year, losing his daughters Geraldine and Bridget to drugs-related deaths within a matter of weeks.

The judge acknowledged the accused's tragic personal circumstances.

"It highlights and clearly demonstrates the utter havoc and devastation that drugs are having on our community and in our society," he said.

Refusing bail, however, he cited the potential risk of re-offending.

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