Northern Ireland

PSNI arson attacks: Two more in court

Craigavon Magistrates' Court
Image caption Five of the accused appeared at Craigavon Magistrates' Court on Wednesday

Two men have been in court charged in connection with arson attacks at the homes of police officers in Banbridge, Portadown and Gilford last year.

James Kidd, 41, from Castleview in Gifford and 26-year-old Hugh Boyce from Curran Road in Larne appeared at Lisburn Magistrates' Court on Thursday.

They are accused of arson with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to cause an explosion and the supply of drugs.

The attacks took place between April and July 2016.

Five other people also appeared in court on Wednesday, charged with arson and drugs offences in the same investigation.

'Career criminal'

Police officers' homes and vehicles were attacked and, in some cases, destroyed in the attacks.

Wednesday's hearing, in Craigavon Magistrates' Court, was told their houses were targeted when they began making inroads against Craigavon-based criminals.

The judge was told one of the five accused, Malcolm Samuel McKeown, was an alleged career criminal responsible for 30 arson attacks.

The 51-year-old is from Ashleigh Crescent in Lurgan, County Armagh.

"We believe Mal was the head of a highly organised crime gang, a particularly violent gang, based in the Craigavon area involved in the supply of drugs and intimidation," a detective alleged.

Thrown out

The officer referred to the existence of an undercover recording to support the PSNI's case that Mr McKeown had authority over the gang.

However, the judge threw out charges directly linking Mr McKeown to the attacks, ruling that police did not have enough evidence.

The four others who appeared alongside him on Wednesday were a 21-year-old woman and three men aged 17, 20, and 36.

They were among a total of nine people who were detained by police on Tuesday as part of the arson and drugs investigation.

The arrests took place in Larne, Lisburn, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon.

Detectives also searched properties in counties Antrim, Armagh and Down.

Two of the nine arrested - women aged 27 and 42 - face only drugs charges and are expected to appear at the same court next month.