Alleged burglar hid in ceiling of old Belfast Telegraph headquarters

The Belfast Telegraph clock on the side of the building, pictured the morning of the fire
The Belfast Telegraph clock on the side of the building, pictured the morning of the fire

A man allegedly raided a technology hub located at former newspaper headquarters in Belfast city centre before starting a fire that caused £87,000 worth of damage, the High Court heard on Friday.

Prosecutors claimed Cristian Topiter, 33, broke into the building on Royal Avenue, hid there and then crashed through a ceiling to steal high-value electrical equipment.

Scales of Justice

Scales of Justice

The premises, once home to the Belfast Telegraph and now occupied by technology innovation centre Digital Catapult, were set alight on February 21 this year.

Topiter, a Romanian national with an address at Parkmore in Craigavon, Co Armagh, faces charges of burglary and arson.

Refusing bail, Lord Justice Deeny said: “This is a very concerning matter.”

Topiter allegedly entered the building in the evening and hid in a space over a suspended ceiling before crashing down onto the first floor, the court heard.

A Crown lawyer claimed that over the next three hours he went through rooms in the empty premises, taking digital equipment and putting them in a rucksack.

She said a fire started in a storeroom spread to other parts of the offices.

The blaze was not discovered until early the following morning.

“There was extensive fire and smoke damage caused to the office of Digital Catapult,” the prosecutor added.

She revealed the estimated cost is in excess of £87,000.

The burglar’s movements and escape through a fire exit door were allegedly captured on CCTV footage.

Blood found at the scene was forensically examined and matched Topiter’s, the court was told.

He was arrested in May, with the prosecution claiming he made little comment during most of his police interviews.

Defence counsel accepted a prima facie case has been established against his client, based on the forensic link.

He argued that Topiter has lived in Northern Ireland for a number of years and could be released from custody.

Denying the application, however, Lord Justice Deeny added: “I consider it’s my duty to refuse bail.”