Northern Ireland

Man carried loaded submachine gun through north Belfast neighbourhood in 'cry for help', court hears

Laganside court in Belfast
Laganside court in Belfast

A man who walked through a north Belfast neighbourhood carrying a loaded submachine gun had allegedly kept it for paramilitaries, a court heard on Friday.

Police also revealed that the weapon David Savage brought onto the street was the first of its type ever seen in Northern Ireland.

Details emerged as the 29-year-old defendant failed in a bid to be released on bail.

Savage, of Cliftonville Road, faces charges of possessing a firearm in suspicious circumstances and having a loaded gun while drunk or under the influence of drugs. 

He was arrested after police observed a man on security cameras at Hillview Road with the weapon in his arms.

Tests confirmed that it was a functioning submachine gun containing rounds of ammunition and residue in the barrel which suggested it may have been fired in the past.

A detective told Belfast Magistrates’ Court: “This is the first of its kind to be found in Northern Ireland.”

Savage, who is further charged with carrying a firearm and ammunition in a public place, indicated the gun had previously been stored at another location.

“He claimed that he had been holding the weapon for paramilitary organisations,” the detective added.

Bail was opposed amid concerns that he could either be at risk from criminals or possibly have access to other firearms.

The detective stressed: “He was walking down the street with a loaded gun in the middle of the night.”

Amid suggestions that Savage was under duress, a defence barrister argued that he had waved the weapon directly in front of CCTV cameras in a “cry for help”.

John O’Connor said: “He told police there were further bullets stored in a backpack and where that would be.

“He was under pressure and just wanted to get rid of what he was holding, that’s why he did what he did.”

With admissions made by Savage during interviews, Mr O’Connor claimed he should now be granted bail due to the passage of time.

Refusing the application, however, District Judge George Conner ruled: “The matters are very serious. I don’t believe that the delay is enough to justify (bail).”

Savage was remanded in continuing custody until early in the new year.