Kevin McGuigan murder: Man charged with having loaded gun is denied bail
A man charged with having a loaded gun by police investigating the murder of ex-IRA member Kevin McGuigan must remain in custody, a High Court judge ruled today.
Mr Justice Burgess refused bail to Patrick Fitzpatrick amid concerns he allegedly had the weapon to protect his family.
Fitzpatrick, 53, was arrested at his Lagmore Dale home in west Belfast on August 18.
Prosecutors claimed he twice tried to escape with a fully-loaded Glock pistol, first through a back door and then a bedroom window, as officers arrived at the house.
He is accused of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.
Police had gone to his home as part of the investigation into the shooting of Mr McGuigan.
The murder victim, a 53-year-old former republican prisoner, was gunned down outside his home at Comber Court in the Shirt Strand area of east Belfast on August 12.
Fitzpatrick is not charged with any offences connected to the killing.
It was also stressed that the gun he allegedly possessed has no links to the shooting.
During police interviews Fitzpatrick provided a statement accepting possession of the weapon but claimed he could say nothing more due to concerns for his family's safety, the court heard.
He also stated that he had nothing to do with Mr McGuigan's murder.
Defence counsel pointed out that Fitzpatrick was among 16 people arrested, questioned and released without being charged over Mr McGuigan's murder.
Seeking bail, he emphasised his client's current poor health.
The accused was himself the victim of a terrorist attack back in 1988 and is now partially blinded, according to his lawyer.
He argued that any attempt to escape was a "frantic" and momentary attempt to dispose of the gun.
The barrister said his client had explained that he had the gun to protect himself and his family against a perceived threat.
On Tuesday Mr Justice Burgess adjourned the bail application to consider the issue of having a loaded pistol to deal with any threat.
He emphasised that he would decide the case in the context of it having nothing to do with Mr McGuigan's murder.
Reaching a verdict today, the judge expressed concerns that Fitzpatrick may try to arm himself again.
Due to the associated risks he ruled that bail must be refused.