Belfast Telegraph

Man 'threatened to kill priest and burn down Belfast church'

Belfast Magistrates’ Court (Niall Carson/PA)
Belfast Magistrates’ Court (Niall Carson/PA)

A Belfast man allegedly threatened to kill a priest and burn down his church, a court has been told.

William Jeffrey Collins, 32, is accused of telling the clergyman he would stab him after being asked to leave the city centre chapel over a suspected attempt to steal.

Collins, of Parkend Street, was remanded in custody after a judge suggested a potential hate motive to the alleged offences.

He appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court on charges of threats to kill and criminal damage to a PSNI car.

Police said a priest had asked Collins to leave St Mary's Church on Chapel Lane because he was suspected of trying to steal a handbag on December 20.

It was claimed that he exited, but then returned and refused to leave again.

At that point he allegedly told the priest: "I will f****** come back and stab you."

Eventually he did depart after repeating the threat by saying "I will f****** kill you", according to the police case.

Collins was arrested on Wednesday after being seen back at St Mary's.

The court heard that as he was being taken into custody he allegedly spat on the windows of a police car and shouted "dirty Fenian b******".

In subsequent interviews he was said to stated that he would burn down the church when released.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey acknowledged the seriousness of the case, but raised issues about any comments allegedly made during questioning.

He argued that his client could be released on conditions including a ban on being in the city centre.

Refusing bail, however, District Judge Peter Magill stressed that Collins is charged with threats to kill a priest.

"He went back in January and when arrested by police he allegedly made remarks of a sectarian nature, so there's a possible hate motivation as well," Mr Magill said.

"What is particularly concerning is that he repeated threats to burn down the church to police in interview.

"This man represents, in my view, a clear and present danger, and should not be released."

Collins was remanded into custody, to appear again by video-link in four weeks time.

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