M2 car chase suspects on drugs charges after Belfast police swoop
Trio linked to cocaine factory, PSNI tells court
Three men arrested after a high-speed motorway chase have appeared in court accused of running a cocaine factory.
Mark McPhillips, Sean Rooney and Fionin Killian were arrested by specialist firearms officers on the M2 in Belfast last Thursday night.
The trio appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday on a series of drugs charges as a result of searches following the operation.
A police officer told the court that at around 11pm last Thursday a Vauxhall car with three men inside was stopped at Fortwilliam roundabout in the north of the city. Rooney was driving the car, with McPhillips sitting in the passenger seat and Killian in the back of the vehicle.
The officer said when McPhillips (39) was asked to get out of the vehicle, he failed to comply with instructions and an officer used a stun gun to subdue him.
A search of the car revealed a small amount of cocaine and seven tablets of the opium-based painkiller trapentadol, the court heard. A list of what the officer said seemed to be drugs payments and five mobile phones were also discovered in the car.
The officer explained that three searches were carried out the following morning at McPhillips' house in Holywood, Co Down, Rooney's home in Oceanic Avenue in north Belfast, and at an industrial unit in Ballymena.
In the lock-up police found scales, a cocaine press with some white powder on it and 10 one kilogram bags of what they suspect is a mixing agent along with 160 grams of suspected high purity cocaine and around 100 diazepam tablets, the court heard.
The officer said it is the police case that it is a facility for producing cocaine, with forensic tests on the substances under way.
Further searches were carried out on a Ford Transit van parked outside which revealed a small amount of herbal cannabis.
McPhillips was charged with nine offences including possession of cocaine, conspiring with others to supply cocaine and possession of criminal property.
Rooney faces nine charges which include possession of cocaine with intent to supply and conspiring with others to supply cocaine.
Killian (22) was charged with possession of cocaine and possession of trapentadol.
Under questioning, Rooney (39) told police that they had been to Dublin that day and were heading to Derry, but came off the motorway in Belfast to buy cocaine. He later said they were going to the lock-up to get two grams of cocaine.
A search of Rooney's house turned up a small amount of cannabis, £1,300 in cash and a passport in McPhillips' name.
Rooney told police the money belonged to McPhillips.
The officer told the court that Killian did not answer any questions during interview at Musgrave police station.
Objecting to them being released on bail, the officer said there was a risk they might reoffend given the substantial amount of money the men owed as part of the alleged drugs factory operation. Rooney's solicitor told the court that he denied being part of a criminal gang and said he had no drugs offences on his record.
He said Rooney was merely acting as a driver for McPhillips and did not have the lavish lifestyle associated with a drug dealer. Also acting for Killian, he said there was no issue of him contacting the other two men, as he is planning to return to his native Kilkenny. No bail application was made for McPhillips, but his solicitor told the court that Killian was his son and he had no knowledge of his father's alleged drugs operation.
He added that McPhillips was Tasered by police as he couldn't stand when he got out of the car due a broken leg.
District Judge Harry McKibben refused bail for Rooney due to the likelihood of reoffending, but granted bail for Killian with a surety of £500.
All three are due to appear in court again on August 23.