West Belfast duo hijacked Tesco van after robbing off-licence, court told

Two west Belfast men allegedly hijacked a Tesco delivery van after they stole alcohol from an off-licence, a court has heard.

ownpatrick Magistrates Court was told the van almost collided with a pram carrying a 10-month-old baby and that it struck a number of other vehicles before police were able to stop it with a stinger device.

Appearing via video-link from custody, 39-year-old Ciaran Barker and Caoimhin Corr (23), confirmed they understood the charges against them, alleged to have been committed on August 5 this year.

Barker, from Beechmount Grove, and Corr, from Beechmount Close, were both charged with hijacking the van, driving while banned and without insurance, dangerous driving, disorderly behaviour on the Sydenham Bypass, assaulting and resisting police, interfering with a vehicle, two counts of theft and failing to stop, remain and report following a road traffic accident.

Police outlined how the alleged offending began at an off-licence in Millisle when Barker took £80 worth of alcohol to the counter, and with Corr holding the door open, the pair walked out without paying and got into a car driven by a third male.

Later, in Ards, a female member of staff at a Maxol garage spotted the defendants allegedly tampering with a motorcycle. When Corr offered her a bar of chocolate, she checked CCTV footage from earlier that day and realised the pair had been in the shop and stole £10 worth of chocolate bars.

A short distance away on Georges Street, a Tesco delivery van driver was sitting with his arm out of the window. Barker grabbed him and told the driver to give him the keys. The Tesco worker looked up to see Corr climbing into the vehicle. He then exited the van, Barker got in and they drove off.

Police claimed that the van was spotted driving on the wrong side of the road, going through red lights and narrowly missed a pedestrian and a pram carrying a child before it left the town and headed for Dundonald, where it collided with other cars and went through more red lights.

At some stage, Corr and Barker swapped driving duties. When police stopped the van on the Sydenham Bypass, it was Corr who got out of the driver’s seat.

Corr’s defence counsel Paul Burns claimed that he and Barker had been kicked out of their friend’s car when he realised the booze they obtained from the off-licence was stolen. He said Corr found himself “stranded” in a strange town and “didn’t want to be left behind” when Barker hijacked the Tesco van.

Mr Burns submitted that “these allegations are completely out of character”, while Barker was much older and had a more significant record, including two previous convictions for hijacking.

Barker’s solicitor Michael Brentnall claimed that he suffers from “significant mental health difficulties”, which have recently been exacerbated as he was forced to move house having “received a death threat from loyalist paramilitaries”.

District Judge Alan White denied bail due to the risk of further offences and remanded both men into custody. The case was adjourned to August 31.

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