Belfast Telegraph

Narrow Water memorial attack accused is granted bail

Bailed: Lorry driver Robert McKeegan
Bailed: Lorry driver Robert McKeegan

By Paul Higgins

A lorry driver accused of wrecking a tribute to soldiers murdered by the IRA at Narrow Water was granted bail yesterday - but barred from going within 50 metres "of any memorial whatsoever".

Defence Solicitor Conor Downey told Newry Magistrates Court that the initial objections police had to Robert James McKeegan being freed "had now been withdrawn" but that bail was subject to numerous conditions.

McKeegan (44), from Beech Drive, Bleary, Craigavon, is accused of causing criminal damage to a memorial belonging to Royal British Legion on October 4 this year.

The lorry driver, who appeared at Newry Magistrates Court via videolink from prison, is also charged with having an indecent image of a child on November 14 this year but there have been claims that the image is more akin to a "vulgar joke".

The offence of criminal damage arises after poppy crosses, wreaths and floral tributes to 18 soldiers murdered near Warrenpoint were destroyed.

The memorial marked the 1979 IRA double bomb attack in which the Army suffered its largest single loss of life of the Troubles.

When McKeegan applied for High Court bail last month, the court heard how the case against him involves CCTV images from cameras installed in the area following previous acts of vandalism.

A prosecuting lawyer outlined: "One male exited the lorry while chatting on a mobile phone, kicking crosses and wreathes off display and damaging the memorial."

The incident on the main Newry to Warrenpoint Road occurred at 7.30am, lasting for three minutes before the perpetrator drove off.

Dash cam footage was examined as part of inquiries to locate the lorry involved.

McKeegan was then arrested after being stopped on the M1 last Wednesday.

It was claimed that his T-shirt appeared to be the same type as that worn by the man depicted in the CCTV images.

In court yesterday, Mr Downey said he had spoken to a police sergeant about bail "and subject to Your Worship, if you would admit him on his own bail of £1,000" as well as a surety of £500.

The lawyer said while the police had asked for McKeegan to report to police twice a week, he asked "if that could be reduced to once".

Another condition was that McKeegan was "not to be within 50 metres of the Narrow Water memorial, or in fact any memorial whatsoever," said Mr Downey.

Addressing McKeegan directly, District Judge Eamon King repeated the conditions and warned McKeegan that "any breach will result in you being rearrested and held until matters are dealt with".

He will appear again on January 16 next year.

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