THREE Dungannon men have been remanded in custody accused of robbing a shop in Newmills.
Patrick Michael Bell (33) of Woodburn Crescent, Colm James Murray (28), Windmill Court, and Dominic Fitzpatrick (40) of Windmill Drive, are each accused of robbing the Mace store of cash, after Dungannon Magistrates Court heard two female members of staff were grabbed by the throat.
Murray is further accused of damaging a PSNI vehicle on the same date.
Bell also had separate charges put to him from earlier this year. These involve three alleged robberies – one in which £3000 in goods and cash were taken from premises in Dungannon; a second where £2000 of goods was taken in Aughnacloy, and £2000 till-contents from shop in Armagh.
All offences were alleged to have occurred on the same day – 14 March. The details of these matters were not disclosed during the hearing.
A detective constable told the court the respective charges could be connected.
Extensive details of the prosecution case against the three men were outlined in court today, Friday.
The detective explained police were called to the shop at Newmills on 6 August after two males wearing balaclava-type disguises entered the shop.
One was brandishing a hammer and the other had a crowbar, the court heard.
One male grabbed a female employee by the throat and pulled her to the floor. She escaped and fled, screaming for help.
A second female employee was grabbed in a similar manner, but she also managed to escape, the detective explained.
During this the second male forced open the till and obtained a cash box. The two men left and got into a waiting car with a third male behind the wheel.
It took off at speed but witnesses were able to obtain a description of the vehicle and part of the registration.
A short time later police received a report of a car matching the description “being airborne” before landing in a field. Three males were seen fleeing from the car.
A specialist police team attended with a trained dog who detected a black snood in the field.
At this time police received a further report of a man lying in a field apparently trying to conceal himself. Officers attended and Murray was arrested at the scene.
Then a female contacted police stating she had been driving when two males emerged from bushes at the side of the road and tried to flag her down.
Fearing she was going to be hijacked the female drove on, and noted the men returned to the bushes after she passed them.
The police team attended this area and Bell and Fitzpatrick were detained. The specially trained dog sniffed out a shirt which was blood-soaked and ripped.
CCTV evidence was obtained from the shop which had captured the robbery. The detective said, “It’s only on viewing the CCTV footage that the ferocity and aggression is made clear.”
He added the cash-box and £540 have yet to be recovered.
During questioning Murray denied involvement and made ‘no comment’ replies to questions. Bell remained silent and handed in a pre-prepared statement also denying involvement.
All three were subsequently charged. The detective objected to bail, although there was no application in respect of Bell.
Refusing bail, stating that there were “no conditions” he could impose, Deputy District Judge Neil Rafferty said, “The starting point here is that this was a serious offence involving the violent robbery of a small shop, all of which was caught on CCTV. I am satisfied there is a strong prosecution case at this stage. As has been outlined to me there is a real risk of interference and the missing items have not been found. I am not satisfied there are any conditions I could impose. Bail is refused.”
All three defendants were remanded in custody to appear by video-link on 3 September.