A man accused of destroying a car used by the murderers of a former loyalist paramilitary boss was told he would be killed if he didn’t burn it out, the High Court has heard.
Darren McAllister has admitted setting fire to the Renault Megane two days after the assassination of ex-UDA brigadier John Boreland in north Belfast, but claims he acted under duress.
Prosecutors also revealed that McAllister has since been warned of a death threat from a loyalist faction inside prison.
Details emerged as the 34-year-old, of Carrs Glen Park in Belfast, was granted bail on a charge of perverting the course of justice linked to the killing.
Boreland, 46, was gunned down at Sunningdale Gardens as he walked to his flat on August 7.
The UDA leader’s killers struck minutes after he left his local bar. He died at the scene.
The gunmen are believed to have escaped in a Megane car that was taken to a farm in Derriaghy, Co Antrim before being driven to the Wheelers Road, Lisburn on August 9.
It was set on fire before being seized by police the following day.
According to the prosecution CCTV footage shows McAllister driving his own Nissan Micra to the scene of the arson.
A Crown lawyer said: “The police case is he destroyed the car that carried the killers to and from the murder scene.”
Although McAllister is not charged with the murder, he is one of three men accused of destroying a car sought by detectives investigating the killing.
It was claimed that he had a “turbulent history” with Boreland.
During police interviews the defendant claimed he had been threatened into destroying the Megane by people he refused to identify.
“He went on to state that he had been told in person to burn the car or he would be killed,” the prosecutor said.
Opposing bail, he argued that McAllister’s release could impact on the continued hunt for the gun used by the murderers.
It could also heighten ongoing tensions within the UDA in north Belfast, it was contended.
The barrister revealed that McAllister has received a threat message while he has been in custody.
“Police say that was from a loyalist paramilitary organisation, an internal grouping within the prison,” he said.
“However, there are associated elements outside.”
Defence counsel Sean Mullan stressed that his client is only charged with perverting the course of justice.
Mr Mullan added: “ He accepted that he burnt out the Renault Megane car, but he has given an account to police of why he did that.
“The defence of duress is a matter that will be tried.”
Granting bail, Mr Justice Colton said: “I appreciate there’s the issue of public order and protecting the public, but whether I can keep somebody in custody because of the illegal threat from other people seems questionable.”
The judge banned McAllister from leaving Northern Ireland without prior police consent and ordered him to have no contact with his co-accused.