Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Man accused of arson attack on popular Belfast sandwich shop "taunted owner", court hears

The scene on Botanic Avenue in south Belfast after an overnight fire destroyed Doorsteps Sandwich shop. Pic Jonathan Porter/Presseye
The scene on Botanic Avenue in south Belfast after an overnight fire destroyed Doorsteps Sandwich shop. Pic Jonathan Porter/Presseye

A man accused of burgling and setting fire to a sandwich shop showed up at the security cordon to taunt the owner, the High Court heard today.

The pair had to be separated after Seamus McCartan falsely claimed the victim offered him £500 to burn down the south Belfast premises, prosecutors said.

Doorsteps cafe was damaged in the blaze which broke out in the early hours of September 4.

Up to 25 firefighters were called to the scene on Botanic Avenue.

The court heard the fire was centred in a storeroom, with a till containing £150 in cash stolen.

McCartan, 31, of Agincourt Avenue, Belfast, denies charges of burglary and arson.

Opposing his application for bail a prosecution barrister claimed he was seen in the area on CCTV footage.

She said he was arrested and searched, with a pair of rubber gloves found on him.

The court also heard McCartan turned up as crews were battling the blaze to allegedly taunt the owner.

"He had said at the scene in full view of the public that the owner had offered him £500 to burn down the shop," the barrister said.

"This resulted in them being in a scuffle that the Fire Service had to separate.

"The injured party refutes any suggestion that he offered anyone, including the applicant, any money to burn down his business."

McCartan later retracted his claim, telling police it was only a throwaway remark.

Conor Maguire, defending, argued that McCartan would have been in the general area because his partner and mother both live there.

He pointed out that his client only had £3 on him when searched, not the £150 taken from the cafe.

An iPod McCartan had, which the prosecution contend belonged to the shop owner, was found on top of a bin, the defence claimed.

Mr Maguire added: "He gave a full explanation over four interviews in respect of his movements in the early hours of that morning.

"Those explanations are clear and reasonable."

Bail was refused, however, with the judge citing the risk of re-offending.

Lord Justice Girvan said: "There is a sufficient prima facie case to give rise to considerable concern in relation to the case against the defendant."

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