| 11.3°C Belfast

Man stopped in Belfast with gun, baton and knuckle duster 'part of Polish feud' court told


The accused was denied bail (stock photo)

The accused was denied bail (stock photo)

The accused was denied bail (stock photo)

A man was allegedly "tooled up" with a loaded gun, baton and bladed knuckle duster as part of a suspected feud within the Polish community in Belfast, the High Court has been told.

Prosecutors claimed Grzegorz Szawica had the weapons when his car was stopped on the city's Stranmillis Embankment in the early hours of May 21.

Police also seized 60 rounds of ammunition during subsequent searches at his home.

The 38-year-old, of Florida Street in the city, faces charges of possessing a firearm and ammunition in suspicious circumstances, along with two counts of having an offensive weapon in public.

He is further accused of driving when unfit through drink or drugs, failing to provide a specimen, possessing a quantity of pregabalin pills, having a Belgian identity card relating to someone else, and handling stolen goods.

The court heard Szawica initially said he bought the gun earlier that night to protect himself.

A flick-style baton concealed in his jeans was also for self-protection, according to comments made in police interviews.

In court on Wednesday he offered a different explanation, claiming the weapons were in a bag found in a south Belfast park.

During the hearing it was contended that the case may be linked to two previous incidents.

In April Szawica was allegedly attacked by two men at a friend's home before pursuing them with a weight-lifting bar.

Then, on May 17, another two men were detained on suspicion of targeting his car and discarding a knife when disturbed.

Four days later Szawica was pulled over in the vehicle while in possession of the gun, extendable baton and bladed knuckle duster, a prosecution barrister said.

Mr Justice McAlinden asked: "Is it because he feared for his own safety, and that's why he was running around 'tooled up' at three in the morning?"

Responding on the suspected motive, counsel said: "Police believe there may have been a falling out within the Polish community in east Belfast."

Luke Curran, defending, argued that Szawica was the victim in the two earlier incidents.

He told the court his client runs an electrical business after settling in Northern Ireland with his partner and their child.

However, the judge's concerns about the series of episodes were not allayed.

"It's very worrying where one side are bringing knives to the fight and the other side is bringing a gun to the fight," he pointed out.

Refusing bail due to the risk of harm to the public, Mr Justice McAlinden added: "This is the third occasion in which the applicant has come to the attention of the police, in the context of what appears to be an ongoing feud with other members of the Polish community."

Belfast Telegraph