PSNI face probe after suspect in a brutal robbery escapes at court
Police have been urged to explain how they allowed a man suspected of carrying out a brutal robbery to escape from the courthouse in Londonderry.
East Londonderry MP, Gregory Campbell, questioned why the man, who was due to face a number of charges including possession of a firearm and a knife, wasn't in handcuffs while he was being brought from Strand Road police station.
There were scenes of high drama at the Bishop Street court yesterday morning moments after a police vehicle containing the defendant, Dean Beattie (22), from Glenowen Park stopped in the secured area.
A major manhunt ensued after the man fled the court confines leaving the PSNI officers who had transported him from Strand Road police station red faced.
An investigation has been launched into how the man managed to evade the officers by scaling two metal fences, one 10 feet high and the other six feet high, before fleeing on foot.
Beattie was due to have appeared in court charged with stealing Christmas presents from a couple, assaulting them, possessing a firearm and a knife and robbing the couple of £100. The offences are alleged to have occurred in the couple's Northland Road flat in Derry on December 12. A second man is already in custody charged with the same offences.
Beattie was arrested on Monday and interviewed and charged by the police on Tuesday. He was driven from Strand Road Police Station to the Bishop Street courthouse just before 11am yesterday.
The police vehicle used to transport him was parked by a police officer inside a secured parking area immediately outside the building. However as Beattie, who was not handcuffed, got out of the vehicle he immediately clambered over a six feet high internal security fence.
The police officer unsuccessfully chased after Beattie but the prisoner then climbed over a second security fence, this one 10 feet in height, walked through turnstiles and ran down Bishop Street before turning into Palace Street 20 metres from the courthouse security gate.
The police officer who had custody of Beattie radioed for assistance. It's understood the entire incident was recorded on CCTV security cameras inside and outside the precincts of the courthouse building.
Beattie was connected to the charges in his absence and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Mr Campbell said he hoped that the next time the man was being brought to court, it would be a more secured manner.
He said: "There must be an urgent review of the way prisoners are transported from police stations to court houses, specifically in this instance to Bishop Street Court House.
"This man faced a number of serious charges which I would have thought would have merited him being handcuffed at least.
"Any information that can lead to his capture should be passed on to the police so that he can be returned to court.
"Hopefully the next time, sufficient measures will have been taken to ensure he reaches the dock and isn't allowed to abscond again."
UUP spokesman on policing Ross Hussey, MLA echoed Mr Campbell's sentiments and queried how the police were not able to stop the defendant in the time it took him to scale two high fences.
He said: "Serious questions need to be asked as to why police didn't think it necessary to handcuff a prisoner who had been charged with possession a firearm and a knife.
"People who are facing serious and violent charges should be handcuffed to two police officers in my opinion.
"You have to wonder too, why the police officers that brought the man to court couldn't at least grab hold of him while he was climbing over two security fences, one of them ten foot high," he said.
"I would urge any member of the public who sees this man or knows where he is to Dall 999 immediately."