A man accused of being part of an armed robbery gang who tied up an elderly couple and threatened to cut off their son’s fingers must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled on Friday.
Even though Kieran Smyth’s lawyers described delays in the case as an “embarrassment”, Mr Justice Weatherup decided to refuse bail.
Smyth, 54, of Springfield Avenue in Belfast, denies charges of robbing the victims of cash and jewellery, three counts of false imprisonment, possession of a firearm, making a threat to kill and the aggravated theft of a Mercedes car.
The alleged offences relate to a raid at the Carryduff home of the couple, aged 82 and 76, on September 11 last year.
The man had just returned with his son from the family business when three masked men, one brandishing a gun, were said to have rushed at them.
Forcing their victims inside, the intruders allegedly shouted either “UVF” or “UDA” and demanded: “Where’s the money, we want the safe.”
Along with the pensioner’s wife, they were forced onto the ground and had a gun pointed at them, the court heard.
During their ordeal the family were tied up, with one of the gang allegedly producing a knife and threatening to cut off the son’s fingers if cash and valuables were not handed over.
At one stage the older man took one of the intruders down to a basement and handed over up to £2,000 in cash.
Prosecutor Fiona O’Kane said his son was repeatedly punched about the head and ribs before his wallet, a Rolex watch and several hundred pounds was taken from him.
The raiders then discovered a safe and smashed it open with an axe.
After ripping out telephone lines and telling the family the house was being watched they were said to have escaped in the woman’s Mercedes car.
Police were only alerted after the woman managed to free herself and call from her mobile phone.
Within minutes police spotted and pursued her car in the Upper Malone area of south Belfast.
After the vehicle came to a halt Smyth and a co-accused were arrested near the scene. But their alleged accomplice escaped and remains at large, the court heard.
Although the Rolex watch, cash and tie clips were recovered, the gun allegedly used in the robbery was not found.
Richard Greene, defending, argued that Smyth was not identified getting out of the stolen car.
He was instead arrested while walking close to the area where it had been abandoned, the barrister stressed.
Mr Greene contended that bail should be granted due to delays in advancing the case, specifically around forensic material.
“The point made all too frequently in these courts, in even serious cases such as this, (is that) the delays in this jurisdiction have really got to the stage of some quite considerable embarrassment to all in the criminal justice system,” he said.
But despite acknowledging it will probably be another six months before Smyth faces any trial, Mr Justice Weatherup refused the application after being told a preliminary enquiry hearing is due to take place in September.
The judge also commented: “We have heard a description of the most appalling intrusion into the home of an elderly couple and threats to recover money from them.”