Belfast Telegraph

'Joyriders' sped from Lisburn to Belfast in just three minutes

A pursuit ensued when the Astra sped away, but when it topped speeds of 120mph the officers pulled back and a PSNI helicopter took over as it raced along the motorway to Belfast (stock photo)
A pursuit ensued when the Astra sped away, but when it topped speeds of 120mph the officers pulled back and a PSNI helicopter took over as it raced along the motorway to Belfast (stock photo)

By Paul Higgins

A so-called joyrider who saw his father murdered stole a car with a relative of the man who killed him, a court heard yesterday.

Craigavon Crown Court heard that having stolen a Vauxhall Astra on September 10 last year, Fionbar McMahon (20) drove so fast along the M1, at speeds up to 120mph, that he made it from Lisburn to Belfast in just three minutes. Alongside him in the passenger seat of the car and in the dock yesterday was Francisco Notarantonio (19).

When he was aged six in 2006 McMahon witnessed his father Gerard Devlin being stabbed to death in Ballymurphy by Francisco Notarantonio (31), a relative of his co-accused.

McMahon, with an address given as c/o Hydebank YOC, and Notarantonio, from Whitecliff Parade in west Belfast, both admitted aggravated vehicle theft, with the stolen car being driven dangerously. McMahon admitted a further count of driving without insurance.

Prosecuting lawyer Nicola Auret described how the Astra was stolen late on September 9 but in the early hours of the morning, police spotted it at a McDonald's drive-thru at Sprucefield.

A pursuit ensued when the Astra sped away, but when it topped speeds of 120mph the officers pulled back and a PSNI helicopter took over as it raced along the motorway to Belfast.

Footage from the helicopter camera "showed that it took three minutes for the car to reach from the on-slip at Lisburn to the off-slip at Broadway roundabout", said the lawyer.

McMahon and Notarantonio were arrested after they left the car. During questioning McMahon admitted his driving was dangerous, while Notarantonio "gave a no-comment interview".

Defence counsel Patrick Taylor, for Notarantonio, told the court that similar to his co-accused, his client had "witnessed his father being shot at an early age".

Martin Morgan, for McMahon, submitted that his client's early life had been blighted by witnessing his father being killed.

"It's very difficult to describe a more horrific thing for a child to witness and hear, just absolutely horrendous and adjectives just leave you when you try to even imagine it," the lawyer said.

Freeing Notarantonio on bail and remanding McMahon into custody, Judge Roseanne McCormick said she would pass sentence tomorrow.

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