Northern Ireland

Court hears engagement rings found in accused socks

High court

Engagment rings with price tags still on them were found in the socks of a man accused of being part of a £50,000 armed raid on a jewellers in County Armagh.

The claim was made in the High Court during a bail application by Sean Donnelly, 29, Colinview Street, Belfast. He denies the charge.

Watches, chains and other items were also taken during the robbery in Tandragee in May.

Bail was refused.

Prosecutors also claim, Mr Donnelly hijacked a car used in the "heist" and smashed glass display counters at the store with a hammer.

A second man is alleged to have been with him, armed with a sawn-off double barreled shotgun during the attack last month.

Mr Donnelly denies charges of robbery, false imprisonment, possession of criminal property, having a firearm with intent, hijacking and arson.

A judge who refused his application for bail said the alleged circumstances surrounding the robbery pointed to the involvement of an organised crime gang.

The court heard two masked men went into the jewellers on Market Street armed with a sawn-off shotgun and a hammer.

A member of staff was forced into a back room and ordered to open a safe, the court was told.

The raiders escaped with jewellery and got into a waiting Audi A4 driven by a third man, which had allegedly been hijacked from a car dealership in Mallusk, Newtownabbey.

It was set on fire near Scarva before the suspects ran to a BMW which a female co-accused is alleged to have driven.

Following a pursuit it was stopped in the Craigavon area and balaclavas, gloves and boiler suits recovered.

Another vehicle, a Vauxhall Corsa, was also searched and some of the stolen jewellery seized, the court heard.

Nicola Auret, prosecuting, said the burnt-out Audi was taken after a member of staff from the dealership was ordered to get out during a test drive.

"This applicant is captured on CCTV at the car showroom requesting the test drive," she told the court.

Barry Gibson, defending, acknowledged the prima facie case against Mr Donnelly, based on his alleged presence in the BMW with engagement rings in his socks.

But the barrister stressed there was no facial identification of the robbers who had been masked.

Mr Gibson said his client insisted he was not involved, and claimed to have taken Diazapam tablets at the time to calm himself following a row with his partner.

"He says he has no great recollection of events surrounding his arrest and is confused about what happened over that period of time," he added.

Refusing bail, Lord Justice Girvan also pointed out the prosecution claims of "the secretion in his footwear of engagement rings still bearing their price tags".

The judge added that anyone convicted of the robbery faces a heavy prison sentence.

"There is a risk of absconding because of the grave nature of the offence."