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Belfast in grip of heroin epidemic, court told

Addict accused of murdering Greenisland pensioner Eddie Girvan is denied bail

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 26/11/2016

Maggie Henderson-McCarrol
Maggie Henderson-McCarrol

A senior drugs counsellor has said there's a heroin epidemic in Belfast, and that Mexican cartels are trying to import the Class A drug into Northern Ireland.

The social worker and drugs outreach counsellor also revealed that relevant organisations and initiatives in north, south and east Belfast have seen an 80% increase in individuals seeking help over the past three years.

The claims were made yesterday at a bail application made on behalf of a heroin addict accused of murdering Greenisland pensioner Eddie Girvan.

Maggie Henderson-McCarroll - described in court as a woman with a long-standing history of drug addiction - has already made several admissions to police about the circumstances surrounding the 67-year-old's death.

Belfast Crown Court heard that following her arrest on suspicion of his murder, the 30-year-old told police that Mr Girvan paid her to have sex with him, that she spent the weekend in his house, and that on January 18 this year, the morning he died, they had a row when he refused to pay her for sex.

It also emerged yesterday that Mr Girvan - whose hands and ankles were bound together with neckties - had kitchen paper stuffed in his mouth which resulted in his tongue being pushed back and blocking his airway. He also sustained several stab wounds, including a serious injury to his chest.

Henderson-McCarroll, whose address was given as Hydebank YOC, has denied a host of offences including murder and is due to stand trial at Belfast Crown Court in the New Year, where she will be claiming self defence and loss of control in the circumstances.

Opposing her release on bail, Crown prosecutor Robin Steer said the main concern of police was that she would re-offend based on her "long-standing" heroin addiction.

Defence barrister John McCrudden QC conceded Henderson-McCarroll "has the criminal record of a drug addict... there is no two ways about it", but stated she had been drugs-free since September, and had passed two tests.

To back this up, Mr McCrudden called Michael Foley, head of Belfast Trust's drugs outreach team, to give evidence. He said Henderson-McCarroll was abstaining from drugs use whilst in Hydebank, and, if granted bail, she could avail of a daily drop-in service and a weekly therapy session offered by his organisation.

He also spoke of an increase in those seeking help for heroin addiction in three of Belfast's four regions, and said the PSNI had revealed that "Mexican cartels are trying to import heroin into Northern Ireland."

Mr Justice Treacy however questioned what would happen if she was released on bail, obtained drugs, "goes off on one" and either seriously injures or even kills someone. "How would we all look if that comes to pass?" he asked.

Branding Mr Girvan's death as a "pretty horrific murder" and pointing out that Henderson-McCarroll had made several admissions to police, Mr Justice Treacy also spoke of her 96 previous convictions.

The Judge said she had "gone through the criminal catalogue" and was a "notorious drug user", adding that for bail "the fact that she may have been free of drugs for a short period of time in prison is a very, very slim basis to consider."

He added that the accused was "someone who poses a lethal risk to other members of the community", saying it was up to the courts to "protect the community ... from serious violence."

Mr Justice Treacy continued: "She is making progress in the prison, albeit for a limited period. Why jeopardise that now?"

Telling defence barrister John McCrudden QC that the application was "premature", Mr Justice Treacy said he didn't have any expert reports or confirmation that a hostel in Belfast was willing to provide an address for Henderson-McCarroll.

Addressing the defence, Mr Justice Treacy said: "I am adjourning this application, but I am not encouraging you to come back again. Her trial date isn't far away. The court is in a position to start at the beginning of February ... which is not that far away."

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