Man on arson charges was crime boss, court is told
A man charged with encouraging arson with intent was the head of a highly organised and violent crime ring, a detective has told a court.
Malcolm Samuel McKeown (51) from Ashleigh Crescent in Lurgan, Co Armagh, has been responsible for 30 arsons and had a 35-year criminal career, the detective said.
A total of five people appeared in court facing charges linked to what police said was an investigation into a drugs and arson “joint enterprise” allegedly associated with the group and targeting police officers.
A judge was told that when police began making inroads against Craigavon-based criminals, the homes and vehicles of serving officers were targeted for arson, endangering life.
The PSNI officers’ vehicles and homes were attacked and in some cases destroyed in the Banbridge, Portadown and Gilford areas between April and July last year. However charges directly linking McKeown to the attacks were thrown out by a judge because police did not have enough evidence.
A detective told Craigavon Magistrates Court: “We believe Mal was the head of a highly organised crime gang, a particularly violent gang, based in the Craigavon area involved in the supply of drugs and intimidation.”
He connected McKeown to 30 arsons between October 2015 and last year. He faces charges of assisting or encouraging arson with intent to endanger life, supply of cocaine and supply of cannabis.
Others accused in relation to the inquiry include Christopher Barry Carlisle (32), whose address was given care of Maghaberry Prison, and who faces three charges of arson and one of supplying cocaine. A detective said Carlisle was a “key” part of the gang.
Scott Simms (20), a factory worker from Thorn Heights in Banbridge, faces three charges, of supplying cocaine, cannabis and tramadol.
Melissa Auterson (21), from Green Park Drive in Markethill, is accused of conspiring to cause an explosion. She was allegedly covertly recorded and was alleged by prosecutors to have been discussing the targeting of police officers, the court was told.
Another of the accused was a minor and was dealt with in closed court.
A judge denied three of the accused bail. Simms was freed with conditions. The case is due to be mentioned on March 10.
Meanwhile, as part of the same investigation, two men, aged 26 and 41, are both expected to appear before Lisburn Magistrates Court this morning.