Belfast Telegraph

Christmas Eve robbers beat shop owner with hammer, court hears

Man (26) refused bail as no 'single word of remorse or compassion' was given to Belfast newsagent

By Alan Erwin

A shop owner was beaten about the head with a hammer after chasing robbers on Christmas Eve, the High Court heard today.

Jack Legge needed stitches and staples for wounds inflicted as he tried to stop two raiders who seized tills full of cash from his north Belfast newsagents, prosecutors said.

Details emerged as bail was refused to one of the men accused of carrying out the raid.

Rejecting Patrick McGurk's application, Mr Justice Stephens said: "There's not been a single word of remorse or compassion uttered by the applicant."

The 26-year-old defendant faces charges of possessing an offensive weapon, namely a hammer, and causing grievous bodily harm to Mr Legge.

McGurk, of Albert Street in the city, is further accused of the robbery of a till and cash, and threatening to destroy the premises.

He is alleged to have gone into C&D Newsagents on the Shore Road on Christmas Eve with a second robber and taken two cash tills.

The shop owner, who had been present with a female, chased the two men with the help of a member of the public, the court heard.

According to Stephanie Boyd, prosecuting, McGurk's co-accused then wielded the weapon and threatened his pursuers.

"He struck the owner of the shop with the hammer, causing head wounds that required hospital treatment," she said.

Meanwhile, it was alleged that the man who came to Mr Legge's aid continued to chase McGurk before punching him in the face in a "pre-emptive strike".

The accused dropped the till and was detained by a group of men who witnessed the incident, the court was told.

It was claimed that McGurk later stressed to police that he hit no-one and had only taken a till.

On being cautioned he allegedly replied: "Sure you know how it is, I need money."

Because of the punch to the face he was taken to hospital for treatment to a nose cut.

Mrs Boyd added: "Whilst there he made an unsolicited comment to the constable, (saying) 'I will petrol bomb that shop'."

Defence counsel Declan Quinn argued that his client had allegedly been running in a different direction when the co-accused was said to have inflicted the hammer blows.

The barrister questioned whether the grievous bodily harm charge could be maintained against his client.

But refusing bail, Mr Justice Stephens cited the risks of McGurk re-offending or interfering with witnesses.

The judge said: "There is a prima facie case that he's a violent man who threatens violence." 

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