Four Belfast men have been remanded in custody after being accused of involvement in a remarkable crime rampage over a single morning.
The spree of offences was said to have stretched across Co Antrim, all during the early hours of Friday.
A court was told that champagne and electronic goods were among the items taken, and that police had launched a high-speed pursuit to catch those responsible.
Detective Constable Moore told Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday she believed she could connect all four – namely, Kevin Brady (31 and from Marsden Terrace), Sean McCann (25 and from Cuchulainn House), Joseph McDonnell (26 and from Cedar Avenue) and Martin Ferguson (22 and from Henderson Avenue) – to the charges they face.
All are jointly charged with three burglaries at houses in Belfast and Newtownabbey on April 25 this year where they allegedly stole car keys to a Seat Leon, a TV, bottles of booze and a PlayStation 4 with assorted games.
While Brady is charged with stealing the Seat Leon and driving it dangerously on the Ballyrobin Road in Templepatrick, the other three are all charged with allowing themselves to be carried in a stolen car.
Brady and McDonnell are also jointly charged with two aggravated burglaries at houses on the Carmavy Road and Lisnataylor Roads in Crumlin and Nutt’s Corner, when they were allegedly armed with knives and stole a Honda CRV jeep along with legal documents, £300 in cash, a laptop and handbag.
Brady is further charged with driving the stolen jeep dangerously on Ballysillan Park in north Belfast and four counts of aggravated vehicle theft in relation to the stolen jeep causing damage to other cars and police vehicles.
DC Moore outlined how the alleged spree started just before 4am when the Seat Leon car was stolen from the house at Summerhill Court, between the Crumlin and Cliftonville Roads in north Belfast.
The court heard that an hour later police responded to a report that a householder at Whitehouse Park, off the Shore Road in Newtownabbey, had disturbed a burglar climbing through an open window, who then ran off and was seen to drive away in a black Seat Leon car with three other men in it.
She told the court they had also recieved a report that, half an hour later, three individuals fled in a similar car after they were disturbed at a house on Hawthorne Drive in Carrickfergus. No charges over this incident were brought before the court.
A family home in Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, had also been broken into, with the culprits having stolen a TV, PlayStation, games, DVDs and bottles of alcohol including champagne. The householders discovered this break-in at around 7.45am.
The officer told the court that just after 6am traffic police had spotted the stolen Leon in north Belfast and began a high-speed pursuit up the motorway with various items including bottles of booze being thrown out of the speeding car.
That pursuit ended at Nutt’s Corner when the driver and front seat passenger, allegedly Brady and McDonnell, fled across fields on foot and climbed over wire fences.
Officers were able to arrest Ferguson and McCann who were in the back seat.
The stolen TV and PlayStation were recovered from the car.
Residents at houses in the Nutt’s Corner area reported seeing two men in shorts with bleeding cuts to their legs acting suspiciously, and a householder at the Carmavy Road told police he disturbed two burglars in his kitchen but that they fled with knives.
A short time after that, two men with similar descriptions stole a Honda CRV from a house on the Lisnataylor Road in Crumlin and so ensued after police pursuit which ended back in north Belfast when they uses two stinger devices to blow out the vehicle’s tyres and it ploughed into police vehicles and other cars.
Brady and McDonnell were arrested as they tried to flee.
Only Brady did not apply for bail and DC Moore told the court the police were strongly objecting to his three alleged accomplices being released, for fear that they would reoffend or – given that they knew their victims addresses – would interfere with the investigation.
Refusing the bail applications, district judge George Conner said he “feared that there’s too high a risk of further offending and I think there’s an issue of public safety in this matter”.
They are to appear again on May 15.