Northern Ireland

Man accused of Larne arson 'has links to UVF'

Burned car outside the house Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The house on Killyglen Road was badly damaged in the fire

A man charged after a burning car was abandoned outside a house in Larne has links to the UVF, a court has heard.

Stephen Paul Lynch, 34, from Shanlea Drive in the town, appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court accused of arson endangering life with intent.

A house on the Killyglen Road was badly damaged on Sunday when a car was set alight and left at the front door.

He also allegedly threatened to kill a man, and intimidated a woman and two children to leave the house.

On the day of the arson, 23 April, Mr Lynch is charged with wasting police time by making a false report of a crime.

'Unsteady on his feet'

The court heard police have CCTV footage of him crashing his own silver Peugeot into the house and then getting out of the vehicle, apparently unsteady on his feet, at about 16.40 BST on Sunday.

A police officer said the footage showed Mr Lynch setting light to a jacket and placing it in the footwell before flames engulfed the car.

He was also filmed kicking the window of the house and shouting at the property, the court heard.

There was no-one inside at the time.

The officer said Mr Lynch then phoned police and reported that his car had been stolen.

She added that the occupants of the house had reported several incidents over the past few weeks.

She said men wearing balaclavas were seen outside the house, and that Mr Lynch and another man had reportedly gone to the home, made "a gun sign" to the male occupant and told him: "You're dead."

The officer said that on 16 April, the male occupant woke up because his dogs were barking and found his car, and his wife's car on fire.

She said police objected to bail because of potential interference with witnesses and a likelihood of reoffending.

The officer added that his alleged actions showed Mr Lynch had no regard for his own safety, or that of others.

Criminal feud

She said police believed Mr Lynch was involved in the UVF in Larne and was "actively involved" in an ongoing criminal feud there.

"There is a real fear lives will be lost," she added.

A lawyer for Mr Lynch put it to the officer that there was no evidence linking him to a spate of other arsons carried out in Larne in recent days.

She agreed that was the case.

The lawyer said Mr Lynch accepted the CCTV footage showed him carrying out the arson, but that he disputed making threats or carrying out intimidation.

'Heavily intoxicated'

He said the arson attack was the action of "a heavily intoxicated man", and that Mr Lynch realised he would most likely go to jail.

The lawyer told the court: "He is not directly involved in the ongoing dispute, he is on the periphery.

"He accepts that he was a man pushed to the edge and broken."

A judge said he had a responsibility to protect the public and denied bail.

The case was adjourned for two weeks.