Concerns for safety of Belfast man charged over outhouse drug find
Concerns have been expressed in court for the safety of a north Belfast man after drugs valued at around £150,000 were found in an outhouse on his property.
John McIlroy was accused of being part of an organised crime gang with links to Spain - a claim he denied yesterday from the dock of Belfast Magistrates' Court.
McIlroy, from Torrens Crescent, was arrested on Thursday after police seized quantities of cocaine and cannabis. He was charged with possessing the class A drug cocaine with intent to supply on July 18, plus a further six "relevant offences".
A police officer told the court he believed he could connect McIlroy to the charges, and outlined several reasons why police were objecting to him being released on bail. The constable revealed a "significant amount" of drugs - including 0.8kg of cocaine and 5kg of herbal cannabis - were located in an outhouse, and that McIlroy had the key to the building. The officer said police believed McIlroy was "involved in the supply of controlled drugs", and also told the court: "We believe he spends a considerable amount of time in Spain."
Citing concerns that McIlroy may fail to surrender if released, the constable said: "He has access to other criminal groupings in Spain and may flee this jurisdiction. We also have concerns for the safety of the defendant as well. Because of the loss of the drugs and his involvement, there is concern there might be retribution for this."
On several occasions during the hearing, McIlroy denied being a regular visitor to Spain, and District Judge Greg McCourt told the officer to check these details with the Spanish authorities as a matter of urgency.
When asked what McIlroy said when interviewed, the police officer said he admitted owning a small amount of cannabis resin found in the house, but gave a 'no comment' response when asked about the cocaine and herbal cannabis in the outhouse.
A barrister representing McIlroy told the District Judge that McIlroy was a man of 51 who appeared in court with a clear criminal record.
Regarding concerns he would flee, the barrister spoke of a series of family commitments, and said "his whole life is here".
The barrister also said McIlroy did not accept the PSNI's claim that he travelled to Spain regularly, adding his client "does not have a huge amount of assets".
Seeking his client's release on bail, the barrister said McIlroy would comply with any conditions imposed, adding: "There is no reason to doubt he would not comply with bail, given he has a clear record."
District Judge Greg McCourt refused to grant bail due to concerns over re-offending and non-compliance with bail terms.
McIlroy was advised he is eligible to apply for High Court bail, and was remanded into custody to appear before the same court, via video-link, on August 16.