'Dublin gang' in court over Belfast burglary
An alleged "organised crime gang" from Dublin have appeared in court in Northern Ireland charged over a £660 distraction burglary at a Belfast shop.
Police told Belfast Magistrates' Court that they believed the five travelled up from the Republic of Ireland with the intent of carrying out the offence.
The five accused, who are originally from Romania, are charged with burglary at a newsagents on the Stewartstown Road, west Belfast, on 14 August.
The gang included a 15-year-old boy.
Appearing before Belfast Magistrates' Court on Saturday were 36-year-old Narghita Serdaru, her 37-year-old sister Christina Serdaru, Danusia Poenaru, also 37 and 19-year-old Bogdan Miclescu.
The 15-year boy, who was also in court, cannot be identified because of his age.
A police constable told the judge that the accused had been captured on the shop's CCTV cameras and said all five had played different roles during the alleged burglary.
The court heard Ms Poenaru and Christina Serdaru went into the storeroom, Mr Miclescu walked off to the side of the counter to block the owner's view while Narghita Serdaru and the 15-year-old distracted his attention.
"He knew something was wrong," the constable said, adding that the newsagent shouted for his niece to help and went to the back of the shop to investigate but was pushed back by one of the women.
The five fled from the premises and jumped into a silver Vauxhall Astra which sped away.
However, not knowing the area, they first drove into a dead-end street and had to turn around and drive past their alleged victim.
The judge was told the shop owner noted their car registration and that the three women in the back were all "lying down".
'Break for the border'
Around 90 minutes later, at about 17:00 BST on Thursday, police in Banbridge, County Down stopped the car and arrested all five.
The constable told the court it was clear the gang were making a "break for the border".
He said officers noticed the women had all changed their clothing and that when searched, the stolen cash was uncovered in Ms Poenaru's bra.
During police interviews Ms Poenaru, from the Whitehorn Road in Dublin, refused to answer questions while Christina Serdaru, from the Thomas Moore Road in the city, claimed she was in Belfast looking for cheap school uniforms.
'Risk of flight'
The constable described the defendants as an "organised crime gang" and said that police were objecting to their release on bail, amid fears that with neither ties nor addresses in Northern Ireland they would flee and never return for trial.
With the exception of the 15-year-old boy, the judge said the "risk of flight is a strong concern".
"I have no doubt that this is an organised crime gang and that I have no doubt that if they went back to Dublin, we would never see them again," she added.
Narghita Serdaru, from Gracefield Road, Dublin, and Mr Miclescu, also with an address on the Thomas Moore Road, Christina Serdaru and Ms Poenaru, were all remanded into custody to appear again on 26 August.
The boy's father ran from the court in an effort to withdraw the £950 cash surety the judge ordered must be lodged with the court before his release.