Gun found in search ‘linked to punishment attack’

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A gun seized during a search of a house in the New Lodge area of Belfast may have been used in at least one local ‘punishment attack’, the High Court has heard.

The weapon in question was one of three guns located during the search of Denis Patrick O’Keefe’s Little George’s Street home last month.

During an unsuccessful bail application made on behalf of 49-year-old O’Keefe yesterday, a Crown prosecutor revealed the property was searched on June 12. A sawn-off shotgun was found wrapped up in socks in a cupboard in the living room, while a rifle and pistol were located in a holdall in the downstairs hallway of the house.

The prosecutor told the High Court that O’Keefe was arrested, and during two police interviews “he refused to answer any questions in relation to the weapons”.

Around six weeks prior to the weapons being seized, a kneecapping was carried out in north Belfast, and the court heard that as a result of that incident, O’Keefe’s house was searched and the guns found. Forensic examinations are continuing, but the prosecutor said that one of the weapons seized in O’Keefe’s house may have been used in the punishment attack.

The prosecutor also told the court: “The police believe these weapons were being stored by the applicant for others, and may have been used in further attacks.”

The Crown, he said, was objecting to bail for a number of reasons, including a risk of further offending, and a risk of interfering with witnesses as it is understood O’Keefe knows the victim of the kneecapping.

A defence barrister described the prosecution case against his client as “a lot of ifs and buts and suspicions” and said there was “no suggestion” that O’Keefe “had any direct involvement in the use of a firearm at any time”.

The barrister also pointed out that if it was the Crown’s case that his client was storing the weapons, the “risk of repetition” would evaporate if he was granted bail as he would be subject to police checks and conditions.

After telling the court “possession of a firearm is a serious offence, possession of three firearms is even more so”, Lord Justice Higgins said if O’Keefe was “storing or keeping these weapons on behalf of other persons, these other persons must have considered him to be reliable”.

The judge added: “I do not consider this to be an appropriate case to grant bail and I therefore refuse the application.”