Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of being a member of Hungarian burglary gang that preyed on elderly refused bail

A burglary gang targeted elderly people up to the age of 96 across Co Fermanagh, a court has been told
A burglary gang targeted elderly people up to the age of 96 across Co Fermanagh, a court has been told

By Staff Reporter

A burglary gang targeted elderly people up to the age of 96 across Co Fermanagh, a court has been told.

Details emerged during an unsuccessful bail application for one of the accused.

The three men and a woman remain in custody accused of multiple burglaries and theft in which elderly, vulnerable victims were targeted.

The gang, originally from Hungary, all reside at Convent Court in Cavan town.

Offending allegedly occurred over a wide area resulting in a combined total of 50 charges.

The accused first appeared in court in August, but only brief details were provided as none sought bail at that point.

Of the four, only Alex Kozak (28) sought bail during a video-link appearance at Enniskillen Magistrates Court yesterday.

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He faces numerous counts of burglary, attempted burglary, going equipped for burglary, driving without a licence or insurance and fraudulent use of insurance documents.

A detective, who strongly opposed bail, spent some time outlining a litany of incidents, many on the same day when the gang allegedly approached elderly people in their homes under various pretences ranging from looking for a lost dog to seeking directions.

One victim aged 94 described answering the door to a female on August 8 who said her dog was lost and wanting the victim to help look for it.

Meanwhile, two males entered the house, one of whom was seen by a witness exiting by a window.

The same day a female entered the home of a 96-year-old man uninvited, but left when he said his daughter was coming.

He observed two males waiting outside and was able to alert police to a silver car they got into.

Later, a male and female called to the home of a 77-year-old man asking for water, which he provided.

The pair left and it was later discovered cash, jewellery and cheques had been stolen.

On August 10 another victim aged 81 reported a female and two males entered by his front door without permission claiming to be looking for a lost dog.

This victim had significant mobility problems and said he could not help.

The gang left but returned two days later, again entering without permission, with one seeking water.

They left but the victim provided matching descriptions of both the gang and their vehicle.

Later that day a man was approached by a silver vehicle with a female and three males inside, who asked for directions to Enniskillen.

The man became suspicious and alerted police and CCTV showed this to be the vehicle used before.

Shortly afterwards, the gang targeted another victim aged 84 asking for water, having entered her home without permission.

They left but returned a short time later, when one of the gang attempted to distract her, after she told them several times to leave.

There was a short lull until August 18 when a male and female entered the home of a 74-year-old by a rear door.

The female asked for water while the male went upstairs.

It was later discovered that money and jewellery was taken.

On August 21 a female "pushed past" a victim aged 85, entering his home and asking for water. He refused and she left, but descriptions were provided to police.

The same day "suspicious persons" were observed at the home of a very frail woman aged 83.

A female asked her to come outside to help look for her lost dog, while a male waited nearby.

However, a neighbour saw this and challenged the pair who swiftly left in a silver car.

Details were circulated and on August 23 the vehicle was spotted in Enniskillen with the gang onboard.

The court heard that the driver was Kozak, who claimed to be driving from Cavan to Belfast to go shopping.

Having provided this information the detective told the court: "We believe Kozak is a flight risk.

"He was the driver of the car at the time of arrest.

"Fraudulent documents were recovered. There are live warrants for him and the others in the Republic of Ireland and Hungary."

It was confirmed Kozak has previous relevant convictions, including thefts using violence or weapons and commercial-scale fraud.

A defence lawyer argued there is no forensic evidence against his client and "it's not like he was caught in the act".

"Essentially, he is a man in a vehicle with others where there is evidence. The case against him is no stronger than when first charged," he said.

"This is a double-edged sword but he's not going to go back to Hungary or Republic of Ireland if he's wanted. He has matters to deal with and that's accepted."

But District Judge Steven Keown threw out the application, ruling: "There is a very real risk of flight and reoffending. Bail is refused."

Kozak will appear again by video-link on January 13.

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