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Newry Cathedral burglary accused was chased by priest

By Alan Erwin

Published 28/11/2015

A burglar ransacked Newry Cathedral offices to steal just £2.50, the High Court heard
A burglar ransacked Newry Cathedral offices to steal just £2.50, the High Court heard

A burglar ransacked Newry Cathedral offices to steal just £2.50, the High Court heard.

Prosecutors said a priest chased the intruder through the city's streets afterwards.

James McDonagh (28) is charged with burglary over the incident last month.

He was refused bail despite defence claims that failures to pick him out at an ID parade had weakened the case.

Mr Justice Burgess heard three police officers believed McDonagh, of Dominic Street in the city, was the man seen on CCTV footage linked to the incident.

Conor Gillespie, prosecuting, said an intruder went into the cathedral's parochial office and ransacked it on October 16, stealing keys and £2.50 in cash.

"He was chased by the local parish priest," he told the court, adding the clergyman had pursued him through a bus station, with CCTV said to have captured part of the pursuit.

McDonagh was later arrested and charged with the offences.

His lawyers mounted a bid to secure his release from custody based on the outcome of two identification procedures.

Neither the priest nor another independent witness singled out McDonagh, the court heard.

A defence lawyer claimed that there was a "fundamental contradiction" between the description of the burglar and his client's appearance.

He also contended that police may have formed a preconceived opinion because they stopped McDonagh about an unrelated issue earlier the same day.

But the judge held that the officers' evidence still amounted to a prima facie case.

Refusing bail for the defendant, he added: "I don't think there's a change of circumstances in this case."

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