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Fire engine rampage accused Duffin and Clarke 'caused damage worth £1.5m'

By Nevin Farrell

Published 18/11/2016

The damage in Larne
The damage in Larne
Robert Duffin
Ross Clarke

Two men charged with taking a fire engine and driving it through a Co Antrim town caused damage to houses and cars totalling £1.5m, a court heard yesterday.

Robert Duffin (66) and Ross Clarke (19) appeared for a preliminary hearing at Ballymena Magistrates' Court, where their cases were sent to Crown Court.

Duffin, originally of Green Link but now living at the Simon Community on the town's Curran Road, and Clarke, originally of Fairway in Larne but now at Drumcree Place, Rathcoole, stood side-by-side in court as a prosecutor submitted there was a case to answer.

Both of the defendants confirmed they were aware of the charges against them and added that they did not wish to say anything at this stage.

Defence barristers Neil Moore and Stephen Law said they had no contrary submissions.

District Judge Peter King ruled that the case should be sent to Antrim Crown Court, with both of the defendants freed on continuing bail.

Mr Moore applied for two counsel for Clarke, who he said had "significant issues".

He added that the damage caused on the day of the incident totalled £1.5m.

It was the first time the amount of damage had been mentioned in court.

Clarke faces 14 charges and Duffin 11. They include causing criminal damage to an articulated lorry and seven other vehicles, damage to three houses, two gardens and two garden walls.

Both are also charged with causing criminal damage to Larne fire station.

Clarke alone faces four more charges - attempted burglary with intent to steal, criminal damage, dangerous driving and aggravated taking and driving of a fire engine, causing damage to the vehicle.

Duffin is charged with aggravated taking of the same fire engine and allowing himself to be carried in the vehicle when damage was caused to it.

Earlier this year, a court was told that the Volvo fire engine was driven by Clarke, who a lawyer said had a severe learning disability.

It was alleged at a hearing in March that Clarke had never driven before, which allegedly accounted for him trying to reverse the engine into Larne fire station and crashing into a wall, causing severe damage.

During the rampage, the fire engine careered out of control on the town's Glenarm Road, causing damage to the vehicle, the fire station, vehicles and dwellings.

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