Man had sawn-off shotguns used in attack on family home, rules judge
A Larne man was yesterday convicted of having two sawn-off shotguns used to attack a family home.
Jonathan McCormac was convicted at a no-jury trial at Antrim Crown Court of having the firearms under suspicious circumstances. But Judge Melody McReynolds acquitted the 33-year-old of having them with intent to endanger life.
In a 21-page judgment, McCormac was also acquitted of a car hijacking and setting the stolen VW Bora alight outside the home of James and Aislinn Hassin a short time later in the early hours of 11 September 2017.
Originally from Larne, but living at Ollardale Park in Ballyclare, McCormac was remanded into custody and will be sentenced on September 6.
During the trial, the court heard that two masked men armed with sawn-off shotguns stole a VW Bora car in what amounted to a hijacking, and that within an hour, it was driven into the front gates of the Hassin family home on Brustin Brae Road, Larne, before being set alight.
The court also heard the windows had been damaged when it was shot three times with the lethal weapons.
The following day, at garages close to McCormac's then home, police uncovered two sawn-off shotguns wrapped in bin liners and stuffed inside a rucksack. A fingerprint matching McCormac's was found on one of the black bags, the court heard.
It was the Crown case that McCormac was involved in every aspect of the crimes, said Judge McReynolds.
James Hassin gave evidence that despite the fact the two shooters he saw outside his home were masked, he recognised McCormac as the "fat" one due to his build and gait, he had known him for years and that his "head was too small for his body".
In her judgment, Judge McReynolds said there was agreed evidence that police had "reliable and untested information" that Mr Hassin "has been involved in criminality", including drugs, guns, explosives, arson and burglaries.
As well as refusing to answer police questions in interviews, McCormac declined to give evidence at his trial.
The defence contended there was not enough evidence to convict McCormac of the car robbery or arson, suggesting there could be "an innocent explanation" for his print being on the bag.
Judge McReynolds said there was not strong enough evidence to place him at the scene of the robbery or arson and acquitted him of those charges
She said there were discrepancies in the testimony of the Hassins and that despite the claims about the size of the defendant's head, "there is nothing exceptional or distinctive about his head to body proportions".
Turning to the firearms charge, Judge McReynolds said given the fingerprint evidence and where the guns were found close to his home, she was satisfied McCormac possessed them.
However, she said she was not satisfied about the intent, so was convicting him of having the shotguns under suspicious circumstances.