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'Belfast hit-and-run accused feared he would be abducted', court hears

A motorist accused of running over a man in a hit-and-run collision in north Belfast panicked amid fears he was about to be abducted, a court heard today.

Anthony Smith reversed into the victim - who is said to be a friend - after receiving death threats, his lawyer claimed.

But police insist the incident on the New Lodge Road on Tuesday followed a confrontation about crashing into a car belonging to the injured man's partner.

The victim, who is in his thirties, remains in intensive care with several life threatening injuries, a judge was told.

Smith faces charges of causing grievous bodily injury by dangerous driving, failing to stop, report or remain at the scene of an accident, and having no insurance.

The 27-year-old accused, with an address at Fianna House on Queen's Parade in the city, was granted bail to live at an undisclosed location.

Appearing before Belfast Magistrates' Court in a white track-suit top, Smith spoke to confirm he understood the charges against him.

He handed himself in to police yesterday, an investigating detective said.

Opposing bail, the officer told the court that Smith accepted owning and driving the car involved in the collision.

"He said he was challenged by a male unknown to him and due to the defendant being under threat he believed the person was going to abduct him, (so) he reversed the car and caused the injuries," the detective constable said.

But based on witness statements, he claimed people emerged when Smith crashed into the parked car.

The officer added: "The injured party confronted (the driver), who reversed back on the person attached to the car and drive over that person on at least one occasion."

Defence solicitor Ciaran Toner confirmed his client has made full admissions.

The lawyer argued that at the time of the incident Smith had already been warned by police that he was under threat.

"The car door was opened by someone coming up behind and he immediately panicked," Mr Toner said.

Following the incident Smith drove about 100 yards before running away, the court heard.

Mr Toner added: "He and the injured party are actually friends."

On being told the accused can stay with a relative well away from the area the District Judge agreed to grant bail.

Smith was banned from entering north Belfast and ordered to have no contact with the victim or any witnesses.

Belfast Telegraph