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Newry shooting accused 'part of international drugs ring', court hears

By Paul Higgins

Published 21/09/2015

Police at the scene of the Sandys Street shooting. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Police at the scene of the Sandys Street shooting. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A Lithuanian man accused of trying to murder two men, is allegedly part of an international drug smuggling gang, a judge heard today.

Standing in the dock of Newry Magistrates Court in a grey jumper, 26-year-old Ramunas Macnoris spoke only to confirm his personal details and that he understood the seven charges against him.

Macnoris, with an address at Lambfield House in Dungannon, is charged with two counts of attempted murder, kidnapping one of the alleged victims, possessing a weapon, namely a handgun with intent to commit attempted murder, driving while disqualified, driving without insurance and driving without a licence, all alleged to have occurred on September 17 this year.

Two 32-year-old men were shot in two allegedly linked incidents in Sandys Street and Armagh Road in the city in the early hours of Thursday.

Giving evidence to the court, Detective Sergeant McNeill said he believed he could connect Macnoris to each of the charges and that police were objecting to his release on bail amid fears that he would reoffend, flee the country or interfere with witnesses.

Claiming that Macnoris is part "of a Lithuanian organised crime gang involved with the importation and distribution of drugs," the officer said the first alleged victim was kidnapped from his home in Ardfield Avenue in Warrenpoint before being driven to Newry when he was apparently dumped out of a VW Passat and shot in the leg.

He told the court the witness had given a statement that he had been "on the run from the Lithuanian mafia for three years" over an alleged drug deal and that a man he named as 'Kundas' had confronted him at his front door, pointed a black handgun at him "and told him to come quietly."

Bundled into the back seat of the Passat, allegedly driven by Macnoris, the detective described how 'Kundas' demanded the man hand over £5,000 and gave him a phone to get the money but when the victim said he couldn't get it, "Kundas said he would be killed."

He was shot in the leg on the Armagh Road and police were alerted when a member of the public found him.

Meanwhile, DS McNeill said there had been a second incident at the Sandys Road in Newry when another alleged victim opened his front door to be confronted by a male allegedly armed with a handgun and attached silencer.

The detective told the court that crime scene investigators had examined both houses and where the first man was found on the Armagh Road with a bullet head and casing recovered from the property on Sandys Road and a bullet case found where the first victim was shot.

He said that "to put it in context," the caliber of that bullet was "typically used by Eastern block countries as service weapons".

The officer revealed that police enquires had uncovered numerous sightings of the Passat and a Volvo car in an apparent convoy on CCTV footage around the city at the time of the shootings.

Macnoris was arrested on Thomas Street in Dungannon and the court heard that a search of the vehicle revealed a "sophisticated hide" where the passenger air bag should have been.

Instead, DS McNeill said police discovered it was a secret hide capable of being locked and unlocked using electro magnets operated by the air bag button and inside, officers seized a "flick baton and a quantity of white powder".

During interviews Macnoris refused to answer police questions, account for his movements or take part in a police line up.

The detective added however that in "covert proceedings," the man who was allegedly kidnapped had identified Macnoris as the driver.

Police were objecting to him being released as they believed he was part of an organised drug gang who had access to drugs and guns and was likely to commit further offences, interfere with witnesses or flee the country.

Despite defence submissions that Macnoris could be released with stringent conditions including staying 40 miles away from Newry, District Judge Paul Copeland refused to grant bail to the alleged would-be killer.

Remanding Macnoris, who blew kisses to his blonde girlfriend in the public gallery, into custody to appear again on October 14 via videolink, Judge Copeland said there were "genuine fears" concerning the risks the officer had raised should he release Macnoris.

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