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Four remanded after petrol bombs thrown at police in Lurgan

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Blaze: A burning car on the railway lines in Lurgan on August 23

Blaze: A burning car on the railway lines in Lurgan on August 23

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Blaze: A burning car on the railway lines in Lurgan on August 23

Four Co Armagh men, including a father and son and an alleged riot “orchestrator” have appeared in court accused of involvement in what was described as premeditated, organised and sinister rioting.

Refusing to free the four men District Judge Rosie Watters told Craigavon Magistrates Court, sitting in Lisburn, “I’m concerned about keeping people safe and I think I have a duty to keep people safe.”

Describing the incidents on 23 August in the Kilwilkie estate when police came under attack with petrol bombs and vehicles were hijacked and set alight, the judge said they were clearly “premeditated, organised and very sinister and created a danger to members of the public and security forces.”

All four were refused bail due to the risk of further offences and their cases adjourned to 2 October.

The four are:

  • Robert Rooney (52), an unemployed labourer from Victoria Street in Lurgan, charged with rioting, making and throwing and petrol bombs
  • Gavin McKenna (36), a self-employed plasterer from Victoria Gardens in Lurgan, charged with riot, making a petrol bomb, aid and abetting the throwing of a petrol bomb
  • Mark Anthony Reynolds (46), Ennis Green, Lurgan, charged with riot, throwing and making a petrol bomb
  • Niall Reynolds (29), from Woodside Green in Portadown, charged with riot, throwing and making a petrol bomb, attempting to damage a road sign and two counts of attempting to inflict grievous bodily harm on police officers.

Giving evidence to the court, Constable Mack said he believed he could connect all four men to their respective offences and described how police were “lured” towards an incident invoking a hijacking and a bomb hoax.

The officers were then attacked by a group of males who had used a ladder to climb onto the roof of a pensioner’s bungalow from where they launched petrol bombs.

The court heard that one of the incendiary devices, allegedly lobbed over a hedge by Niall Reynolds, struck a signpost and that if it had not done so, it would have landed on the head of an officer.

The car, said the officer, was “engulfed in flames... any innocent bystander would have been severely injured or killed.”

He claimed that of the four, McKenna was the only one not recorded actually touching a petrol bomb but the officer further claimed he “is the orchestrator of it” in that he told the others where they were, helped retrieve the ladder to get up on the roof and “engages with the people working on the petrol bombs.”

Mark Reynolds, the court heard, is also alleged to be an “organised and instigator” of the rioting.

The rioting, which occurred as a group of alleged IRA terrorists were arrested and charged in an MI5 undercover operation, continued into the evening during which time, both Asda and Tesco supermarkets had vehicles hijacked and set alight.

Defence counsel Conor Lunny, acting for Rooney, argued there were triable issues and that the case would face significant delays in being progressed through the courts, submitting that “stringent conditions” could be put in place to address police concerns.

Peter Corrigan, solicitor for the other three, labelled the CCTV evidence as “contentious,” declaring that “in order to refuse bail you must drive a coach and horses through the presumption of innocence.”

DJ Watters refused to free them however, described the offences as “very, very serious in themselves.”

“They're bad enough on the face of it but it's the fact that the community and people doing their job are so much affected by this behaviour,” said the judge, adding that the risk of freeing them “is just too great.”

Belfast Telegraph