Northern Ireland

Victoria Square blast accused 'said it was just a warning'

A man accused of causing an explosion in Belfast city centre allegedly told police: "That was just a warning."

Prosecutors also told a court that Malcolm Stevenson described himself as a "brigadier" and threatened to have officers blown up following his arrest.

But during police questioning, the 47-year-old denied any involvement in igniting an aerosol inside a rucksack at Victoria Square in August.

He claimed to have been at his tent in north Belfast at the time of the blast.

Shrapnel

Mr Stevenson, a chronic alcoholic with an address at Templemore Street, faces a charge of criminal damage endangering life.

He was granted bail on conditions that include a ban on entering the centre of Belfast.

Just after midnight on 5 August a rucksack containing two aerosols was placed against the doors of House of Fraser on the junction of Chichester Street and Victoria Street, the court heard.

After it was set alight one of the canisters exploded, sending fire and shrapnel shooting towards the road.

No-one was injured and no damage was caused to property.

A prosecuting barrister claimed CCTV footage showed a suspect monitoring the area around Victoria Square for an hour and 15 minutes before the explosion.

He was seen igniting the bag at the entrance to House of Frazer before exiting up Chichester Street, the court heard.

"He's seen looking back a number of times at the rucksack as the flames begin to engulf it," the prosecutor said.

During this period only one person comes into view in that vicinity, she added.

'Cold turkey'

Two police officers were said to have formally identified Mr Stevenson as being the suspect.

The judge was told that when arrested for an unconnected matter the following afternoon the defendant allegedly replied: "I'm a brigadier, I'm in the YCV."

It was claimed that he continued: "You see that wee black bag the other night, well that was just a warning ... I'm going to blow yous up."

With Stevenson subsequently denying that he had been at the scene, the court heard he had been staying in a tent pitched outside a fire station on the Cavehill Road.

Seeking bail for his client, defence counsel described how he went through cold-turkey in custody to deal with his alcohol dependency.

"He did have a very traumatic time," the barrister added.

Granting bail for Mr Stevenson to stay at an address in east Belfast, the judge imposed a night-time curfew, electronic tagging and alcohol ban.

The judge also ordered that he must not cross the River Lagan to come into the city centre.

He warned the accused: "This is a good chance for you to turn things around. If you don't take it things are going to get very bad for you."

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