Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of robbing pensioner in church makes gun gesture at alleged victim's daughter in court

By Paul Higgins

A man accused of robbing a pensioner in a church made a gun/shooting gesture at his alleged victim's daughter in court on Wednesday.

During a break in his application for bail at Craigavon Magistrates Court, 45-year-old Martin McGill was taken back to the cells and it was then the alleged robber made the gesture at the woman in the public gallery.

She had identified herself to the court a few moments earlier after District Judge Bernie Kelly asked her to be seated.

McGill, with an address at the Edward Street hostel in Portadown, is accused of robbing £100 from the woman's 74-year-old mother, attempted theft of a donation money box from St Patrick's church in Portadown, possessing a weapon, namely a crow bar with intent to commit robbery, and going equipped with a crow bar for burglary or theft, all alleged to have been committed on June 30 this year.

Speaking at the time of the incident, Detective Sergeant Stephen Wilson said: “A lady in her 70s reported to us that she had entered the church and disturbed a man trying to prise open a donation box open with a crowbar.

“When he saw her, the man left the building but then returned and demanded money from her. At first, the lady refused to hand over her purse but when this man hit her with the crowbar, she did give him a sum of money. The lady was left shaken and has some bruising to her left shoulder."

Unemployed McGill had been scheduled to appear at Lisburn Court last Monday but a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to attend.

The court heard then that, despite police objections, a Forensic Medical Officer (FMO) had deemed McGill, who suffers from diabetes and epilepsy, "not fit to be detained" as he was refusing to eat to increase his blood sugar level or take his medication for epilepsy.

Issuing the bench warrant for his arrest, District Judge Rosie Watters said: "If the FMO couldn't deal with it he should have been taken, whilst in custody, to hospital and then he isn't here today - what a surprise that is," adding "I think that's incredible, I have never, ever, ever come across that before."

In court on Wednesday, a detective constable said she had executed and endorsed the warrant, adding that police were opposed to McGill being freed on bail.

She told District Judge Kelly that police objected because of the gravity of the offence which had "happened in a place of worship," the victim was an elderly lady, and, as McGill has what she described as a "significant criminal record, there's a propensity to commit further offences".

The detective told the court McGill's release licence for a previous robbery had been revoked on Wednesday morning.

Defence barrister Conor O'Kane said he had not been made aware of that but explained that, on Monday, McGill had borrowed money from hostel staff and had gotten on the train at 8.10am but had fallen asleep, waking when the train pulled into Great Victoria Street.

"He bumped into a friend who lent him £12 and he decided to visit his mother in the Bogside in Derry," the lawyer said, adding that police arrested the defendant there "within an hour or two".

As Judge Kelly pointed out however, with McGill's licence revoked, he "cannot consider a bail application."

Shaven headed McGill, who appeared in a grey track suit top and blue bottoms, was remanded into custody to appear again via videolink at Lisburn court on 10 July.

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