Northern Ireland

Four people appear in court after PSNI drug raids

Grosvenor Road arrest scene
Image caption Arrests were made on Belfast's Grosvenor Road during the police operation

Three men and a woman have appeared in court after police seized an estimated £230,000 worth of cocaine and ecstasy in greater Belfast.

A judge refused to grant any of them bail, describing it as among the gravest alleged offences of its kind.

The suspects face a combined total of 30 charges, including possession with intent to supply and conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The four accused were remanded in custody to appear against next month.

They were arrested on Wednesday during a PSNI Organised Crime Branch operation which involved a car being stopped on the Grosvenor Road in west Belfast and subsequent house searches.

Before the city's Magistrates Court were: Lisa Murray, 29, of St James' Meadow, Crumlin; Christopher Hanna, 28, from Poplar Road, Crumlin; Andrew Wilson Smith, 31, of Elmwood Cottages, Newtownabbey; and 18-year-old Joseph Martin, with an address at Orchardville Crescent, Belfast.

Although it was alleged that most of the drugs were found in Murray's house, her boyfriend Hanna was said to have claimed responsibility for them.

But a police officer refused to accept his attempt to take full blame, alleging that telephone examinations show his girlfriend's involvement.

Fears were also expressed for Hanna's own safety, with the court told that he has previously displayed suicidal tendencies.

'Extremely naive'

The officer said that a female friend of Murray's had claimed she was asked to take delivery of up to five packages in the post.

These were understood to have been through the online auction site eBay, the court heard.

With up to £200,000 worth of the drugs alleged to have been found in Murray's home, one of the investigating team claimed text messages she sent about the sale of "blue shoes" related to diazepam.

Her lawyer said she was a single mother who had only been in a relationship with Hanna for two months.

"She presents as a very vulnerable lady and extremely naive," the solicitor said.

It was also claimed that her child would be placed in foster care if Murray was not released.

Murray and Martin sobbed in the dock throughout the hearing.

A lawyer for the 18-year-old accused said he denied any involvement apart from being the driver of the vehicle.

'Sinister people'

Noel Phoenix contended: "At the height of his case he would inadvertently have been used by the others."

But a prosecutor confirmed the four accused were alleged to have been acting as a unit.

Refusing bail to all of them due to the risk of re-offending, the district judge said: "I have to say this is probably one of the most grave offences of this sort that has come before this court recently.

"I'm told there are sinister people not before the court prepared to issue threats in relation to these offences."

The four accused were refused bail and will appear in court again next month.

As they were being led away a man in the public gallery shouted: "Joseph Martin is an innocent party."