Northern Ireland

Lee Smyth: Christoper Meli murder accused's bail revoked

Christopher Meli Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Twenty-year-old Christopher Meli was murdered in December 2015

A 21-year old murder suspect has had his bail revoked after it emerged he was arrested in Boots less than an hour after appearing in court.

Lee Smyth is charged with the murder of west Belfast man Christopher Meli.

Mr Meli, 20, was beaten to death by a mob in Twinbrook in December 2015.

Mr Smyth attended court on Thursday when a successful application was made to vary a bail condition to allow him to take up a job offer.

On Thursday, his legal team asked that his curfew be relaxed, which would enable him to secure a month's seasonal employment.

The variation was granted by a judge at Belfast Crown Court, with the brief hearing ending at 10:35 GMT.

Fragrance section

At 11:10 GMT, Mr Smyth and a girl came to the attention of staff at Boots in Donegall Place where they were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting.

Mr Smyth spent Thursday night in police custody before appearing in court on Friday, where a prosecutor asked the same judge to revoke Mr Smyth's bail.

The prosecutor said Mr Smyth and the girl were seen in the fragrance section of Boots, where it was observed that items were being placed in the girl's handbag.

The prosecutor also said that when searched, a perfume gift set was located down the front of Mr Smyth's trousers.

Asking the court to revoke bail, the prosecutor spoke of 14 breaches by Mr Smyth, which included him being found "heavily intoxicated".

"He has fully displayed he cannot comply with bail conditions," the prosecutor said.

'Stupidity of the highest order'

A solicitor representing Mr Smyth said he had to accept that to be arrested so soon after leaving court on Thursday was "stupidity of the highest order".

Asking the judge to defer making a decision to revoke bail and to reflect over the weekend, the solicitor urged the judge to take into account Mr Smyth's young age and "limited intellectual ability".

Addressing the court, the judge said that when he was persuaded to grant Mr Smyth bail last year, he was "sufficiently concerned" to impose strict conditions.

Regarding the incident at Boots, the judge said that while Mr Smyth was entitled to the presumption of innocence, it seems there was a prima facie case against him for theft.

The judge concluded: "I am therefore going to revoke bail. I am not satisfied he will comply with conditions.

"He is not a suitable candidate for bail and crown court bail is revoked."

This was greeted with applause from Mr Meli's family in the public gallery.

Mr Smyth responded by turning around in the dock and clapping back at them.

There was then a verbal altercation with the family as he was led from the court in handcuffs by prison staff.

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