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Robbery accused warned of paramilitary threat
A STRABANE man accused of robbing a supermarket at knife point has been warned by police that is facing a threat from paramilitaries.
Ciaran McConnell (25) of Lisnafin Park was told of the threat when he appeared at Strabane Magistrates Court on Friday accused of carrying out an armed robbery at Supervalu. McConnell is further accused of attempting to rob a car wash on Strabane’s Main Street on July 6.
Police were called to the Supervalu store on Strabane’s Main Street on Thursday following a report that a man armed with a Stanley knife had entered the store and stolen cigarettes.
McConnell was subsequently arrested but because of his intoxicated state, was not charged with armed robbery and possession of an offensive weapon until the following day. He denies the charges.
A bail application was presented by Kevin Winters Solicitors in Belfast on behalf of the defendant. However police said they had strong objections to McConnell being released.
Detective Constable Paul O’Donnell said that at the time of the Supervalu incident, McConnell was on police bail in connection to the attempted robbery at the car wash.
He told the court that on Sunday July 6 two individuals had visited the car wash, one dressed in black and armed with a hammer and one in a red sweater in possession of a knife.
Both men demanded money from employees, most of whom were Romanian nationals. A 999 call was made to police and when officers arrived they drove one of the employees around Strabane where he was able to identify the two suspects.
One of them was Ciaran McConnell while the other was identified as Michael McGavigan who has already been charged in relation to the incident.
Police said that after taking statement from the Romanian men through an interpreter, they believed they could connect McConnell to the crime.
Objecting to release with regard to the Supervalu robbery, DC O’Donnell pointed out that it had happened while the defendant was on police bail. He also revealed that since Thursday, a paramilitary threat had been made against the accused and that McConnell could be tempted to flee the jurisdiction as a result.
The officer also added that witnesses in the case were known to the defendant and there was a fear he could interfere with them.
Asking that bail be considered, McConnell’s barrister, a Ms Doherty, argued that her client’s last relevant entry for anything of a violent nature was back in 2005. She also pointed out that he had denied the current charges and had given an account of himself at the time.
DC O’Donnell said however, “I see him as a real risk to the people and the business people of Strabane.”
Throwing out the bail application, District Judge Austin Kennedy said he had concerns that two and a half weeks after being charged in connection to the car wash incident, McConnell had been arrested again.
He also expressed fears that he was a flight risk, given the looming paramilitary threat.
The defendant was remanded in custody to appear again by video link at Strabane Magistrates Court on August 21.