A prominent loyalist allegedly gave orders before a gun attack on two high-profile rivals in north Belfast, a court heard on Friday.
John Bunting was heard to instruct “get the pieces” before John ‘Bonzer’ Boreland and Andre Shoukri came under gunfire, it was claimed.
Bunting, 47, is one of three men charged with attempting to murder the pair last week.
Boreland, 44, was shot in the thigh while Shoukri escaped injury in an alleged attack being linked to heightened tensions between loyalist factions in the area.
Although Bunting denies involvement in any shooting incident he was refused bail at this stage.
The community worker, of Stonebridge Avenue in Conlig, Co Down, was arrested and charged along with John Howcroft, 46, of Formby Park, and Darren McCalister, 31, of Alliance Road - both in Belfast.
All three are also charged with possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
The alleged gun attack occurred at Carr’s Glen Park in the Ballysillan area last Wednesday.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard claims that Boreland and Shoukri were in a car when it was hit by a bottle.
According to their accounts the pair got out to confront a group of men. Boreland alleges he then heard Bunting gave a direction before the shots were fired.
A detective involved in the investigation described it as a “brazen” attack in a residential area.
Opposing bail, he claimed there was a risk of witness intimidation and said other people were still being sought in connection with the shooting.
But defence lawyer Paul Farrell launched a scathing attack on the police probe.
He claimed detectives should have sought an extension in the time his client was held in custody so they could make further inquiries.
“This was a rushed, shoddy and incomplete investigation, resulting in an abuse of the charging process,” Mr Farrell said.
He set out how Bunting had been at a meeting with a senior police officer hours before the incident to discuss ongoing tensions in the area.
The accused later provided a full account of his movements and remained calm at the scene when police spoke to him, the court heard.
Mr Farrell also claimed there were deficiencies in the forensic follow-up.
He provided a range of references from figures on both sides of the religious and political divide to support Bunting’s bid for bail.
One of them, from an unnamed clergyman, said: “In many people’s eyes the current situation represents a victory for the enemies of peace and law-keeping.
“John Bunting’s release on bail would go some way to counterbalance this perception.”
Despite describing the references as “quite extraordinary”, the district judge refused bail due to the ongoing police investigation.
He added, however, that depending on the outcome of those inquiries, he may be minded to grant a future application.
Bunting was remanded in custody to appear again in court by video-link on September 18.