Man accused of terrifying raid on elderly couple refused bail
A man accused of being part of an armed robbery gang who tied up an elderly couple and threatened to cut off their son's fingers must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.
Although Kieran Smyth's lawyers described delays in the case as an "embarrassment", Mr Justice Weatherup decided to refuse bail.
Smyth (54), of Springfield Avenue in Belfast, denies charges of robbing the victims of cash and jewellery, three counts of false imprisonment, possession of a firearm, making a threat to kill and the aggravated theft of a car.
The alleged offences relate to a raid at the Carryduff home of the couple, aged 82 and 76, on September 11 last year.
The man had just returned with his son from the family business when three masked thugs, one brandishing a gun, rushed at them.
Along with the pensioner's wife, they were forced onto the ground and had a gun pointed at them, the court heard.
During their ordeal the family were tied up, with one of the gang producing a knife and threatening to cut off the son's fingers if cash and valuables were not handed over.
At one stage the older man took one of the intruders down to a basement and handed over up to £2,000 in cash.
Prosecutor Fiona O'Kane said his son was repeatedly punched about the head and ribs before his wallet, a Rolex watch and several hundred pounds were taken from him.
The raiders then discovered a safe and smashed it open with an axe.
The gang escaped in the woman's Mercedes car.
Police were alerted after the woman managed to free herself and call from her mobile phone.
Within minutes police spotted and pursued her car in the Upper Malone area of south Belfast.
After the vehicle came to a halt Smyth and a co-accused were arrested near the scene, but an accomplice escaped.
Although the Rolex and cash were recovered, the gun used in the robbery was not found.
Richard Greene, defending, argued that Smyth was not identified getting out of the stolen car.
He was instead arrested while walking close to the area.
Mr Greene contended that bail should be granted due to delays in the case.
"The point made all too frequently in these courts... (is that) the delays... have really got to the stage of some quite considerable embarrassment to all in the criminal justice system," he said.
Mr Justice Weatherup refused the application after being told a preliminary enquiry hearing is due to take place next month.
The judge said: "We have heard a description of the most appalling intrusion into the home of an elderly couple and threats to recover money from them."