Two guilty of being part of hijack gang

Two young men from Belfast were found guilty on Monday by a jury as being part of a five-man gang who hijacked a car from a female motorist and her friend.

The two women had been Christmas shopping in Belfast and were returning to their car parked at Dunbar Link on the evening of November 8, 2014 when they were approached by the group of males, who stole the red Polo.

The car was involved in a collision in the Falls area of Belfast, and the Polo was later found abandoned near the crash.

Two men - Richard Jones and Ryan McCrea who are both 19 - were arrested in connection with the hijacking. The jury heard that whilst McCrea was linked to the vehicle forensically and was picked out in an ID parade, Jones confessed his involvement to police a year after the incident.

Jones later branded his confession as “lies”, whilst McCrea told the jury that on the night in question, he was standing outside a shop in west Belfast when a male he knew pulled up in a red car. McCrea said he got in, lifted a bag from the passenger seat which he handed to the driver, listened to a bit of music, had a smoke, then got out of the car.

The pair denied offences arising from the hijacking, and were tried by a jury consisting of six women and six men at Belfast Crown Court last week.

Following several hours of deliberations, the jury returned their verdicts earlier today and found both men guilty of the offences.

McCrea, from Prospect Park, was found unanimously guilty of hijacking the Polo and of a charge of aggravated vehicle taking causing damage.

Jones, from St Leonards Crescent, was found guilty by a majority of 11 to one of the same two charges, and also of stealing £45 from one of the female victims.

Following the verdicts, Her Honour Judge McCaffrey ordered that pre-sentence reports be compiled on both defendants. She also released the pair on bail, and ordered that they return to the same court for sentencing next month.