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Co Down ‘chainsaw menace’ held on remand


Lionel 'Rusty' Close

Lionel 'Rusty' Close

Lionel 'Rusty' Close

A man branded a “menace to society” by a judge has been remanded in custody accused of having a chainsaw as a weapon.

In addition, 34-year-old Lionel ‘Rusty’ Close was accused of breaking into a property as he tried to evade police.

Refusing to free him, District Judge Mark Hamill told the court: “He hasn’t a hope of me granting bail.”

“I want to be quoted on this as the resident District Judge in Ards that this man is a menace to society,” he added.

Close, originally from north Down but now with an address at Owenreagh Drive in Newtownabbey, appeared at Newtownards Magistrates Court by video-link.

He is charged with possessing a weapon and burglary on June 13 this year.

Giving evidence, a police constable outlined how Close was captured on CCTV at a property on the Stump Road in Ballywalter lifting a chainsaw from the front garden and pulling the starting cord when the potentially lethal tool was “about a foot from a child’s face.”

According to neighbours who contacted police over the “disturbance”, Close went into the house with the chainsaw still running before he drove away from the scene.

According to the police case, the defendant then moved to a property in East Street in Ards and the officer disclosed the woman who lives there had left to collect her partner, leaving the door unlocked.

When she returned, the light was off and the door was locked, so she contacted the police, who found Close inside.

Defence solicitor Patrick Higgins argued that although charged with burglary, the defendant “will not be found guilty of that” because his motivation was not to steal but to evade the police.

Equally, the solicitor was adamant that Close did not have the chainsaw illegally but rather “was checking it was working.”

As the judge put it, “So [he’s] not guilty of burglary because [he] was simply dodging the police and you want me to grant him bail?”

Remanding Close into custody, District Judge Hamill adjourned the case to July 6.

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