A two man alleged robbery team tried to run a 40 foot lorry off the motorway to steal a huge quantity of cigarettes, a court heard today (sat).
As well as the attempted robbery of more than £15,000 of cigarettes from a lorry on Friday, 36-year-old Kieran Carlin and Jason McMillan (26) were also accused of stealing cigarettes worth £3,756 on 6 December in a similar incident.
First to appear in the dock of Belfast Magistrates Court was Carlin, from Spinner Square, where he was charged with nine offences including the earlier theft as well as Friday’s attempted robbery, driving without a licence, no insurance, two counts of dangerous driving, having incorrect registration plates, going equipped for theft with an angle grinder and balaclava and possessing a weapon, namely a hammer.
McMillan, from St. Peter’s Place also in Belfast, was called to the dock afterwards where he confirmed he understood the three charges against him, theft, attempted robbery and going equipped for theft with a Stanley blade.
Giving evidence to the court Detective Constable Campbell sad he believed he could connect both men to their respective charges and that police were objecting to bail amid fears that they would reoffend and the nature of the alleged crimes posed a significant danger to the public.
He outlined how just after 6am on Friday morning, a lorry driver for Wincanton Logistics became suspicious of the driver of a Ford Fiesta car believing it was trying to make him stop and knowing that a colleague had been involved in an incident when a small car forced him to stop on the Westlink ten days beforehand.
The driver contacted his manager who in turn contacted the policemen and when the lorry eventually came to a stop at Sprucefield Roundabout, police were waiting.
The fiesta, with Carlin behind the wheel, came to a stop directly in front of the HGV lorry and when cops opened the rear doors of the trailer, McMillan was inside, said DC Campbell adding that searches uncovered a stanley blade in the trailer with McMillan as well as an angle grinder, balaclava and hammer in the car with Carlin.
Arrested and later interviewed, both men “gave prepared statements” and while Carlin denied knowledge or involvement in either incident, McMillan “made a significant statement more or less saying ‘that’s not robbery, that’s theft’,” said DC Campbell.
He told the court that in the 6 December incident, a Ford Fiesta had managed to force an HGV lorry to stop on the Westlink and that when it pulled in front of him, another man had jumped out of his trailer and gotten into the Fiesta which then drove off.
Police suspect the same car was used in each incident, said the cop.
Revealing that between them the alleged robbers had more than 130 criminal convictions, the officer said police were objecting to bail as there was a likelihood they would commit further offences and given the nature of both incidents, they had posed a significant danger to the public as they had occurred on “main arterial routes” of Belfast.
“Certainly in the run-up to Christmas police would fear that there is an opportunity to exploit the Christmas deliveries with theft, robbery and further to that the sale of stolen goods,” claimed the officer.
Carlin’ defence solicitor Daniel McCorry put to the officer there were “no mention” of weapons being used in either incident and while DC Campbell said that was correct, it was more a case of using the car as a weapon “in trying to run the lorry off the road.”
He also agreed there was no physical description matching Carlin from the first incident but told the lawyer it’s the police case he was driving and didn’t get out of the car.
In relation to McMillan, DC Campbell revealed he was only freed from prison last September so is still subject to a prison licence and probation supervision order, describing his record as “horrific.”
His defence lawyer conceded he has a “substantial record” but submitted the father of two would abide by any bail conditions the court set if granted bail.
District Judge George Conner said however the risk of further crimes “is just too great” to free either man so he was remanding them into custody to appear again on 13 January next year via videolink.
Before he was led to the cells, McMillan urged the judge to release him so he could “spend Christmas with the kids.”
“Can you not just let me out on Christmas Eve and you can send me back for Boxing Day?” pleaded McMillan but Judge Conner said while it was a “difficult task,” he repeated that the risk of further offences was “just too great.”