Romanian shop burglary gang member had been jailed for attempted murder

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A MEMBER of a Romanian gang caught red-handed as they fled with cash after disabling an alarm and breaking in through the roof of a supermarket in Ballymoney was previously given a four year jail term for attempted murder in his home country, a court heard on Monday.

The information was outlined at Coleraine Magistrates Court where two more members of the gang were jailed for six months.

Last week at the same court two other Romanians from the four strong gang were jailed for similar terms when the judge said that in the absence of their criminal records from eastern Europe he was adding two months to the sentence he was intending to give to reflect that.

It emerged at court on Monday that one of those men - Ionut Guita (26) - had in fact been sent to jail for four years for attempted murder in Romania. The other jailed gang member was Iulian Cojocaru (30).

At the court this week - Iordan Stamate (26) with an address at Strand Road, Londonderry and Chiracu Dumitru (28) of no fixed abode - were also jailed for six months.

A prosecutor told the court an employee of Milltown Spar in Ballymoney spotted a gang of burglars at 4am on July 21 this year who had entered the building by making a hole in the roof after an alarm had been disabled.

They raided cash from tills and made off with around £2,000 before four people were arrested and the money was recovered.

Defence barrister Michael Smith said the gang was caught “red-handed” as they fled.

He said Dumitru was under investigation for similar matters in Londonderry but they are not now being proceeded with.

The court heard Dumitru had a “significant” record for similar offences.

At last week’s court, Deputy District Judge Chris Holmes said he believed the Romanians had deliberately came to Northern Ireland to steal from shops and jailing the other two gang members he said he believed the men would be deported upon their release from jail.

When the men first appeared in court in the summer, whilst opposing bail, a police officer said he believed the quartet to be part of a gang which had carried out eight similar raids across Northern Ireland.

The officer said the four men were found in a car near Coleraine in the early hours of Tuesday July 21 following a report of a break-in at the Milltown Spar.

The policeman said that 25 minutes after the break-in police stopped a Vauxhall Vectra at Loughan Road near Coleraine containing the four accused and a large bag containing cash was found.

The officer said staff identified it as a Spar bag which they believed was stolen from the store and it was estimated the coinage was similar to that taken from the Spar shop.

The officer said all four men had dirt and mud on their footwear and clothing which was wet and a police dog unit had followed a scent across a river leading to a nearby industrial estate.

The policeman said a deleted message on a mobile phone belonging to one of the men was roughly translated as ‘We are at the industrial estate’.