Man extradited from the Republic on double murder charge is refused bail
A man charged with a "brutal" double murder in Belfast 12 years ago must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.
Gerard Lagan (35) was refused bail yesterday amid claims he crossed the border and began a new life in the Republic of Ireland immediately after Edward Burns and Joe Jones were killed.
Lord Justice Treacy held there was a risk that he could flee again, based on his suspected failure to return for the funerals of close relatives in the intervening period.
"This applicant had strong family ties in this jurisdiction back in 2007, and that did not prevent him from effectively severing his links with his family circle in Northern Ireland," he said.
Lagan, with an address at Butler Walk in Belfast, faces prosecution after being extradited in October.
The two victims' bodies were discovered hours apart on March 12, 2007.
Burns (36) was found shot in the head at Bog Meadows, close to the Falls Road in the west of the city.
A short time later 38-year-old Jones was discovered battered to death in an alleyway in the Ardoyne district.
During a bail application prosecutors claimed Lagan was involved in luring the victims to their deaths.
Mobile telephone calls, cell-site analysis and eyewitness evidence allegedly links him to the killings as part of a joint enterprise with other suspects.
Opposing Lagan's bid to be released from custody, a Crown lawyer contended that within hours of the murders he stopped using his phone and headed over the border with two other men central to the investigation.
She claimed the trio left Northern Ireland together, resided together and effectively started a new life in the Republic.
The court heard Burns was shot after receiving a phone call and leaving his home, telling an acquaintance that someone needed help but that he had a bad feeling.
That call was said to have lured him to Bog Meadows.
Another man believed to have been at the scene of the killing was shot in the neck with the same gun before fleeing the scene and getting a taxi to hospital, the court heard.
Lagan is not suspected of being the gunman in either attack, it was confirmed.
However, counsel claimed he then phoned the second victim, Jones, and got him to go to Elmfield Street, where the fatal assault was carried out.
Residents reported hearing the apparent sound of a shovel hitting against a wall and hard surface, along with two men laughing, she disclosed.
Later that morning Jones' severely beaten body was found in an alleyway. A bank card belonging to one of Lagan's relatives was said to have been located a few feet away.
With the case against the accused described as circumstantial, it was confirmed that he is currently the sole defendant.
Lagan's barrister, Neil Fox, disputed prosecution assertions that he left behind a life in Belfast to move to the Republic after the murders.
He also insisted there is no forensic evidence linking his client to either murder scene.
Denying bail, however, Lord Justice Treacy said that Lagan is facing a prima facie case of involvement in "two brutal murders".
Citing the risk of flight and potential interference with witnesses, the judge added: "If he has set foot inside Northern Ireland prior to his extradition earlier this year it certainly wasn't apparent to the authorities."