Belfast Telegraph

Man accused of wrecking troops' memorial denied bail

By Paul Higgins

A lorry driver accused of damaging a memorial to murdered soldiers has been refused bail amid fears he would interfere with the police investigation.

Robert James McKeegan appeared yesterday at Banbridge Magistrates' Court, sitting in Newry.

The 44-year-old, from Beech Drive in Bleary, Craigavon, is accused of causing criminal damage to the Narrow Water memorial, which belongs to Royal British Legion, on October 4.

The shrine commemorates the 18 soldiers murdered in an IRA double bomb attack in 1979.

Poppy crosses, wreaths and floral tributes were destroyed in the incident, which is believed to have been the fourth attack in the past year.

The lorry driver was further charged with having an indecent image of a child on November 14 this year, although defence solicitor Conor Downey claimed the alleged indecent image was more akin to a "vulgar joke".

A PSNI detective told the court he believed he could connect McKeegan to both offences.

In court yesterday, the officer claimed the defendant had stopped his lorry beside the memorial at around 7.30am then, while talking on his phone, destroyed it before driving off.

He was arrested on the M1 motorway on Wednesday.

The officer claimed that when the defendant's phone was checked, an indecent image was found.

Submitting that the element of sectarianism in the alleged offence was an aggravating feature, the detective said police were objecting to bail on the grounds that, as a lorry driver, there was a risk that McKeegan could abscond.

Mr Downey argued, however, that his client would not flee because of his ties to the local community.

He also claimed that the indecent image charge was likely to be dropped because it was "more in the nature of a vulgar joke".

Mr Downey asked for bail conditions to be attached, but District Judge Copeland disagreed and McKeegan was remanded into custody.

He is due to appear in court again via video-link on December 12.

Belfast Telegraph

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