A man charged with the “predatory” rape of a teenage boy in west Belfast must remain in custody, a judge ruled today.
Gerard Scannell, 39, was refused bail amid claims his own safety could be at risk due to public outcry over the alleged attack.
Scannell, from Ballymurphy Road in the city, denies three counts of rape and a further offence of sexual assault.
He is alleged to have attacked the 16-year-old boy in the Falls Park area in the early hours of July 16.
Belfast Magistrate’ Court heard Scannell is forensically linked to a T-shirt discovered near the scene of the alleged incident.
But it was also revealed that intimate samples taken from the teenager found no traces of the accused’s DNA.
The results of forensic tests on samples from Scannell will not be available until November.
Opposing his application for bail, police and prosecutors claimed he may contact witnesses or flee.
A detective constable also raised issues about the reaction to the alleged rape on social media.
“Among the local community there’s been a lot of public outrage, and I would be concerned that for his own personal safety he may try to leave the jurisdiction,” he said.
The detective claimed the attack was carried out on “a vulnerable person without provocation”.
Scannell was picked out during an identification process, the court heard.
But defence counsel Mark Farrell challenged the police portrayal of the case.
In cross-examination, he suggested relatives of the alleged victim and accused were in contact before the incident.
“If the prosecution case is this was completely and utterly stranger rape that would be an odd development,” the barrister contended.
He was told any such contact would be investigated by police.
As Scannell listened via video-link from Maghaberry Prison, his lawyer dealt with the T-shirt evidence by stressing he never denied being in the Falls Park area.
The detective responded, however, by claiming the accused had failed to account for his whereabouts over a 90-minute period.
Refusing bail, District Judge Fiona Bagnall raised concerns over Scannell wanting to stay at an address where four children live.
Citing the risks of re-offending and interference with witnesses, she added: “At this stage it’s been put forward to me as a predatory rape and sexual offences against a vulnerable stranger.”
The accused was remanded in custody to appear in court again next month.