Police chased stolen car at 120mph on M1

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Alleged car thieves were pursued at 120mph after stopping at a McDonald’s drive-thru to buy food with the victim’s bank card, the High Court has heard.

A police vehicle had to abandon the chase on the M1 motorway into Belfast last week due to the dangerously high speed, prosecutors said.

Two men accused of taking the Vauxhall Astra were then arrested when a PSNI helicopter tracked the car until it came to a halt in the west of the city.

Details emerged as bail was granted to the 19-year-old man accused of being behind the wheel.

Fionnbarr McMahon’s application was granted after a judge was told how he was left traumatised from witnessing his father’s murder as a child.

McMahon, of Spamount Street in Belfast, faces charges of aggravated vehicle taking, driving dangerously, failing to stop for police, having no insurance and fraud by false representation.

The alleged offences relate to the theft of the Astra from a house at Fruithill Park in the Andersonstown district on September 10.

The owner’s handbag and purse were also taken in the raid.

An hour later police spotted the car at a McDonald’s restaurant drive-thru at Sprucefield near Lisburn.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay said a contactless card from the stolen purse was used to purchase £10 worth of food.

Police then commenced a pursuit of the Astra as it travelled on the motorway at a speed exceeding 120mph, the court heard.

When that chase was called off a helicopter tracked the alleged thieves to the Whitecliff area, according to the prosecution.

During interviews McMahon denied any involvement in the burglary or using the bank card, but accepted having driven the Astra.

Opposing bail, Mrs McKay argued: “Police had to terminate the pursuit because of the excessively high speeds; it’s felt this young man is a danger to the public.”

Damien Halleron, defending, insisted his client is not forensically linked to a burglary which occurred an hour before he was detained.

The barrister also disclosed: “He has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder relating to witnessing the murder of his father during a feud in Ballymurphy many years ago.”

McMahon’s father, Gerard Devlin, was stabbed to death in the west Belfast neighbourhood in February 2006.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Horner stressed it was on condition the accused fully participates in the training programme aimed at getting him into work.

Imposing a curfew and a ban on entering the west of the city, the judge told McMahon: “This is your chance, for goodness sake don’t waste it.”