A man accused of being part of a gang of burglars who threatened sex workers at gunpoint is to remain in custody, a judge has ruled.
Mohamed Hassan, 20, was refused bail over his alleged involvement in two separate raids on houses in south Belfast.
Intruders stole jewellery, mobile phones, car keys and more than £1,500 in cash after forcing their way into the women's homes late last year, police said.
Hassan, a Somali national with an address at Ravenhill Avenue in the city, denies charges of aggravated burglary, threats to kill and possessing a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard two Romanian women living at Olympia Drive were targeted on December 16.
An unidentified man who arranged to visit the property forced his way inside and pointed a gun at one of the victims.
She was held as two other men entered and searched the house, taking money, valuables and the keys to a BMW car.
A second raid was carried out on another woman living at Surrey Street in the early hours of December 22.
“This lady was working as an escort and made an arrangement with an unknown male to attend the property, a PSNI detective said.
He left after spending some time at the house, according to police, but returned a short time later with another two men.
One of them allegedly produced either a real or imitation gun, demanded money from the woman and threatened to kill her before the trio left with £1,500 in cash and mobile phones.
With the victims in both burglaries described as sex workers, it was disclosed today that the two women at Olympia Drive have since returned to Romania.
Hassan is allegedly linked by his phone number being used in both raids.
He was located and arrested at a "house of multiple occupancy" in north Belfast, where police recovered BMW car keys from a living room vase.
The defendant denies any involvement in the break-ins and has claimed a friend regularly borrows his mobile.
Hassan’s barrister, Aileen Smyth, argued that he should now be freed from custody due to an “inordinate” hold-up in the case.
“We are beyond the point where the delay tips the balance in his favour,” she contended.
But despite sharing the concerns expressed by counsel, District Judge Anne Marshall decided against releasing Hassan.
Denying bail due to the risk of further offences, she pointed out: “These were two aggravated burglaries where females were threatened with a BB gun.”