Northern Ireland

Water leak 'led to Belfast drug dealer arrest'

High Court
Image caption The case was heard at Belfast High Court

An alleged on-the-run drug dealer was detained only after a water leak at his new flat, the High Court has heard.

Belfast man Gary McKeown had fled from police who stopped him in a car containing £15,000 worth of cocaine and £3,000 in cash, a judge was told.

Further searches of a home he allegedly abandoned led to the discovery of 420 diazepam tablets and CS spray.

Mr McKeown, 26, of The Arc, Queen's Road, is accused of having class A and class C drugs with intent to supply.

He is further charged with having a prohibited weapon and concealing criminal property.

He was refused bail due to fears he may not turn up for trial.

A prosecution barrister told the court that the finds were made after Mr McKeown's car was stopped for a minor traffic offence on the Shore Road, Newtownabbey, in September last year.

It was claimed that he ran off when a bag containing the cash and cocaine was found.

The drugs were assessed as being 18% pure - twice the level of cocaine normally bought on the streets.

Mr McKeown was said to have quit his former home in Jordanstown, leaving police unable to find him.

Fiona O'Kane, prosecuting, said he was finally arrested following a situation at The Arc apartment complex in the Titanic Quarter last month.

"There had been a leak in the premises and as a consequence the landlord was called and a plumber brought in," she told the court.

"Access to the premises the applicant was residing in had to be forced."

'50 tablets a day'

Mrs O'Kane disclosed that more than £221,000 in cash, 955 euros and 5,000 suspected ecstasy tablets were discovered in the flat.

Mr McKeown has not been charged in connection with those finds at a property he was sharing with two other men.

He said he had had the diazepam for his own personal use, claiming that he took up to 50 tablets a day.

A defence barrister claimed it was known for people to have that level of addiction, fed by purchasing the drugs on the black market.

He added: "I have taken instructions on where he has been and how he survived.

"He has led something of a nomadic lifestyle."

The court was told Mr McKeown had fled from police because his partner was pregnant and he wanted to play a role in raising their child.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Horner said: "Given the fact this man has been effectively on the run for a year and able to remain undetected, there must be a very significant risk he will not turn up for trial."