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Larne man 'with UVF links' refused bail after car driven into house in Larne and set alight

Police fear lives could be lost because of an ongoing "feud" between two individuals in the Larne area, a court heard on Tuesday.

A PSNI detective was speaking as a 34-year-old factory worker, who police alleged is involved with the UVF, was charged with arson following a blaze when a burning car damaged a house in Larne.

The attack came during a wave of fires in the County Antrim town in which property and vehicles have been damaged.

Stephen Paul Lynch of Shanlea Drive, Larne, appeared at Antrim Magistrates Court after a car was burned out in the Killyglen Road area of Larne causing damage to the front of a house on Sunday.

He is charged with arson with intent to endanger life by damaging by fire a property at Killyglen Road belonging to Bill Russell and Gillian Burnett.

He is also charged with intimidation by unlawfully causing by force, threats or menaces Gillian Burnett and her two children to leave her residence.

He is also charged with making a threat to kill Bill Russell.

The fourth charge the accused faces is that he knowingly made a false report to police tending to show an offence was committed by an unknown person.

Objecting to bail the officer said she believed she could connect the accused to the charges.

At 4.39pm on Sunday she said police received a report of a car on fire at Killyglen Road which spread to the property where there was nobody at home at the time.

She said CCTV footage showed a silver Peugeot car was driven by Lynch in to the property.

He was "unsteady on his feet" as he got out and he appeared to be shouting and kicked the property.

The officer said Lynch then lit a jacket and placed it in the footwell of the car before getting a rag.

She said the car was then engulfed in flames and the property damaged.

She alleged Lynch then made a false report to police that his vehicle had been stolen.

The officer said the incident was "linked to the ongoing situation in Larne".

The officer said the intimidation charge related to Lynch allegedly parking near the address last Friday when he made a gun gesture with his hands and was accused of saying: "You are f--king dead Russell".

The detective said there were reports of masked individuals outside the property on other occasions.

She said there was a "real fear" if released that Lynch would interfere with witnesses.

She said the accused had shown a "total disregard" for his own safety and that of the local community and had to be taken to Antrim Area Hospital where he allegedly assaulted police officers.

She said police had information the accused is involved with the "UVF" in Larne.

The detective added: "There is a real fear lives will be lost" and said police had concerns for Lynch's own safety.

Defence barrister Neil Moore said the feud in Larne is between a "Mr Hassan and a Mr McRandal".

He alleged Mr Russell was in the "Hassan faction" and said Lynch is a relation of McRandal through marriage.

Mr Moore said there was no evidence to link Lynch to any other arson attack and the lawyer alleged Mr Russell and a man called "Humphrys" had "brandished" a real or imitation firearm at his client.

Mr Moore said there was an "ongoing feud between Mr McRandal and Mr Hassan" and because he was linked to McRandal through marriage Lynch received a "death threat".

The barrister alleged that because of the turmoil Lynch's wife lost her job in a children's nursery and his own job as a forklift driver in a factory could be lost as he is set to go to jail after admitting carrying out the arson attack.

On Sunday, said Mr Moore, whilst heavily intoxicated, Lynch took his own car and crashed it into Russell's house.

Mr Moore said his client was "pushed to the edge and broken" by alleged intimidation from Russell and "cohorts".

The lawyer said Lynch accepted he deliberately set the car on fire and accepts there will be a "price to pay" with jail.

Mr Moore said telling police the car was stolen was an attempt to "cover his tracks" but the lawyer said the other charges will be denied as his client disputes what Mr Russell told police.

Mr Moore added: "He will potentially lose everything. He is not directly involved in this ongoing dispute, he is on the periphery" and on Sunday "he lost control".

The police officer strenuously objected to bail saying they believed Lynch is involved in what is happening in Larne.

Deputy District Judge Peter Prenter refused bail saying the public had to be protected on the grounds of the nature of the offending and a potential interference with witnesses.

Lynch was remanded in custody to appear at Ballymena Magistrates Court via video link on May 18.

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