Man accused of firing shots said he was keeping 27 guns in his garage to keep them out of reach of UDA

A man accused of firing shots in north Belfast had 27 guns in his garage to keep them out of the reach of the UDA, a court heard on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 1:54 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 3:44 pm
Laganside court complex in Belfast city centre.

Mark Waller claims he removed a dumped bag containing pistols, shotguns and ammunition after coming under threat for refusing to store drugs.

The 32-year-old was involved in a “Good Samaritan act gone wrong”, his lawyer contended.

Waller, of Crumlin Road in the city, appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on a total of 63 charges linked to reports of shots being fired at two locations on May 2.

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He is accused of discharging a firearm in a public place, threats to kill, criminal damage, possessing a firearm or imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and multiple counts of having guns in suspicious circumstances and without a certificate.

Police said a man dressed in black allegedly smashed a window on a house at Manor Street on Sunday morning, produced a pistol and told a woman: “I will shoot you dead, you b******.”

Two shots were reportedly fired there, while a further three were discharged a short time later on Silverstream Road. Spent bullet casings recovered from both locations have been sent for examination.

A PSNI armed response unit went to Waller’s home that day, where 27 suspected firearms were allegedly discovered in a garage.

The haul included an assortment of pistols, shotguns, a pump action rifle and live rounds of ammunition.

Opposing bail, an investigating detective said: “This incident appears to be completely random, we are not quite sure where it all came from.”

Under cross-examination by defence solicitor Owen Beattie, he confirmed tests are ongoing to establish if the weapons are real or imitation.

Mr Beattie said the accused accepted having guns that he claims to have found up to a year and a half ago, but never intended to cause harm or fear to anyone.

The court heard Waller and his family have been “plagued” by threats from suspected UDA men since 2019.

“The defendant refused to store drugs for some people aligned to or known to be members of a proscribed organisation,” Mr Beattie submitted.

On one occasion up to 40 masked men allegedly tried to force him out of his home, while shots have been fired and his children targeted in other incidents.

It was claimed that about 18 months ago Waller spotted some of those menacing him as they dumped a bag which he decided to take home with him.

He then discovered to his shock and surprise that it contained an assortment of guns.

Mr Beattie went on: “”His case is that he harboured the weapons so the paramilitaries involved could not use them on him or the wider community.

“It could be categorised as he has carried out a Good Samaritan act gone wrong.”

Refusing bail, however, Deputy District Judge Anne Marshall ruled that Waller was not suitable for release.

She remanded him in custody to appear again by video-link on June 1.