Belfast Telegraph

Man who helped to destroy car used in Boreland murder denied bail

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man who admitted his part in the removal and torching of a car linked to the killing of a leading north Belfast loyalist has been refused bail.

Thomas O'Hara pleaded guilty last September to destroying a silver Renault Megane sought by police in connection with the shooting of former UDA boss John 'Bonzer' Boreland.

Mr Boreland (40) was gunned down in the Sunningdale Gardens area of north Belfast in August 2016.

O'Hara and two co-accused appeared in court last August where they each denied a charge of perverting the course of justice between August 6 and 11, 2016, by destroying the car sought by police in connection to the murder.

However, O'Hara (31), from Brownhill Drive in the Kilbirnie area of Scotland, was later re-arraigned on the single charge, pleading guilty.

O'Hara will be sentenced for the offence at the conclusion of the trial involving his co-accused.

Pointing out that these two men also face, and deny, the same charge yet have been granted bail, O'Hara's barrister asked that his client also be released on bail.

Objecting to O'Hara's release, prosecuting barrister Sam Magee said it was the Crown's case that O'Hara and two other men "came into contact" with the Megane the day after the murder.

Revealing the getaway vehicle was stored overnight in Dunmurry, Mr Magee said O'Hara and the two co-accused went to the address where the car was.

He also revealed there was CCTV footage which showed O'Hara "driving the Renault Megane away from the site where it was stored overnight".

The court heard the vehicle was then taken to a second location, where it was burnt out and later recovered by police.

Pointing out the Crown's objections to O'Hara's release ahead of sentencing, Mr Magee said that as the defendant is a Scottish resident, there were concerns about a risk of him fleeing.

Mr Magee handed Judge Gordon Kerr QC a copy of O'Hara's criminal record and also spoke of a history of O'Hara failing to appear at court.

Regarding a risk of flight, Mr Magee said that while O'Hara "has perhaps a romantic interest in this part of the world", there were concerns he would flee "due to a lack of connection in this jurisdiction."

Mr Magee concluded by saying O'Hara "is not a suitable candidate for bail" and that "no conditions would suffice".

O'Hara's barrister Peter Irvine said his client had been in custody since his arrest in September 2016.

Mr Irvine said O'Hara was "not the instigator behind the offence he pleaded guilty to" and "is not the person who ignited the vehicle", and said "two men, who may well be more culpable than he is, are on bail".

Regarding the risk of flight, Mr Irvine said "strenuous efforts" have been made to secure a suitable bail address for his client in Northern Ireland, and that fleeing after pleading guilty "simply could not be a realistic option for him".

Judge Kerr, noting that O'Hara had admitted involvement in the "destruction of a key piece of evidence in this case", refused bail.

Belfast Telegraph

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