Defendant tailed by helicopter refused bail

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A Newtownabbey man who was arrested for burglary and going equipped for theft after being tailed by a police helicopter has been refused bail.

Appearing before Coleraine Magistrates’ Court on Thursday was 52-year-old Henry Thomas Purcell of Whitewell Road.

He was charged with four counts of burglary at addresses in Coleraine and Armoy on October 7th, 2014.

He was also charged with going equipped for theft (having false number plates), driving while disqualified and driving without insurance.

A police officer told District Judge Mr Liam McNally that there had been a number of burglaries and attempted burglaries in the Coleraine, Armoy and Ballymoney areas on October 7th.

Descriptions of three men in a black Renault Laguna were given to police.

The registration and description of the car involved was circulated and the car was sighted travelling towards Doagh, with one male driver and no other occupants.

The court was told that when police started to follow the car, it made off at speed and the police helicopter then becamed involved.

When police eventually stopped the car, they arrested Purcell. The car was seized and searched and a set of number plates were found in the boot. It later transpired that these plates were the correct ones for the vehicle and that false plates were being displayed.

The officer told the court that the defendant denied being involved and said that he had gone to attend to some horses when he was flagged down by some members of the Travelling community.

He claimed that they had offered to do a part exchange between his car and a black Renault Laguna. He said the exchange had happened 15 minutes before the police arrested him. He was said to have given a description of the occupants of the car but couldn’t give any other details.

The police officer objected to bail on the grounds that the defendant may interfere with witnesses.

Defence for Purcell, Mr Alan Stewart, asked if it was correct that an identity parade had taken place and that the witness had not been able to correctly identify Purcell.

The officer confirmed that this was correct.

He also asked the officer to confirm that no money had been taken in any of the incidents. She did so.

Mr Stewart then told the court that Purcell’s sister had agreed to act as surety for the defendant and added that the court could impose both geographic restrictions and curfews to assuage any of the concerns raised by the police.

He added that forensic reports could take months to complete and argued that father-of-nineteen Purcell should not have to face months in custody pending a decision in the case.

Refusing bail, District Judge McNally said he believed that there was a strong prima facie case to answer.

He said that if Purcell’s story about exchanging the car was true then “you were most unlucky”.

He also added that it appeared to him that Purcell was “one of the three men in the car”.

Purcell will appear before North Antrim Magistrates’ Court via video link on November 3rd.