Arson accused is refused bail at Londonderry w

Bishop Street Court House.
Bishop Street Court House.

A 21-year-old man has denied he was one of the people captured on a mobile phone camera when a stolen car was set alight in Londonderry this week.

Daniel Martin Armstrong, who was refused bail when he appeared at Londonderry Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, told police the image looked more like a woman.

Armstrong was charged with the aggravated taking of a Audi A4 car from Hinton Park in the Waterside on Tuesday night.

The unemployed 21-year-old was further charged with arson in connection to the same car.

A juvenile appeared in the same case charged with stealing the car, taking a car without the owner’s consent and arson of the vehicle.

He was released on bail of £250 after the court was told he admitted his involvement under police interview, had no previous convictions, and agreed to a package of measures including electronic tagging, a curfew and help with drug issues.

Both defendants spoke briefly to indicate they understood the charges.

A PSNI constable said that between 9.30pm on Monday and 2.30am on Tuesday, an occupied house at Hinton Park was entered via an unlocked rear door and keys to the grey Audi taken.

The vehicle was stolen and driven around counties Londonderry and Donegal, with three burglaries reported over the border within this time-frame.

The constable said the car was later driven up into a cul-de-sac at Creevagh Park in Nixon’s Corner and set on fire. The episode was witnessed by a local woman who took photos on her mobile phone.

Both defendants were picked up in Creggan shortly afterwards, and the policewoman said articles of their clothing matched a description given by the witness.

The court was told that the juvenile had initially told police he had got into the vehicle in Hazelbank at 2am and got out before it was set on fire. During subsequent interviews however he stated he was in the vehicle.

In relation to Armstrong, the policewoman said that he too was interviewed three times, but denied committing any offences. He told police he was going to a friend’s auntie’s when picked up in Creggan, and that his tracksuit bottoms and shoes were muddy and wet because he had gone through a number of gardens.

The constable said Armstrong “denied he was the person in the picture saying it looked more like a woman”, the constable said. She said the other person in the picture, self-identified by the juvenile, looked like a ghost according to Armstrong.

The court was told that Armstrong had only recently been released from jail in the Republic of Ireland, and he had notched up 22 previous convictions within the last three years. His mother had initially refused to provide a bail address for him, but Armstrong’s solicitor Seamus Quigley said that had now changed.

The policewoman accepted under questioning from Mr Quigley that the photograph taken by the woman at Creevagh Park “wasn’t great”.

Mr Quigley argued that the evidence against his client was extremely weak.

However Deputy District Judge John Connolly said there was distinction to be made, citing the amount of previous convictions, and concern over the likelihood of further offences among the reasons why bail was being denied for Armstrong. Armstrong is due back in court on June 19th, while the juvenile will appear next month.