Teenager denied bail by District Judge over ‘flight risk’ concern

The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.
The courthouse at Bishop Street, Derry.

A Romanian national was denied bail when he appeared before Londonderry Magistrates’ Court on Monday, accused of stealing a wallet from a man who was found dead near the City Walls last year.

Conall Kerrigan was discovered dead in August. It is believed he fell from the Walls during the early hours of the morning following a night out.

The court heard allegations Costica Munteanu (19), from Tallaght, Dublin, was part of an organised crime gang operating in Londonderry and Belfast targeting vulnerable victims.

Munteanu was charged with robbery of Mr Kerrigan’s wallet on August 23 last year, as well as the theft of iPhones from two women on August 22.

The court heard there was nothing to link the theft to Mr Kerrigan’s death.

Munteanu’s family were in court and the District Judge, Barney McElholm, was told they were not wealthy people, but had gathered a surety of £1,500 from family and friends.

The defence asked District Judge McElholm to consider bail, given that Munteanu had made full admission to the offences.

A PSNI officer said an investigation was launched following the disappearance of Mr Kerrigan.

CCTV footage showed him being robbed by two males. Separately, two thefts were reported around the same time and CCTV footage showed that the same men were involved and after the images were published they were later identified by the Gardai.

Opposing bail, the officer said police believed Munteanu would evade police contact and they could not specify conditions to control his movement if he was bailed to another jurisdiction. The officer said they did not have defendant’s passport and added that the second suspect in the case had already fled the country.

The officer said police in Belfast recognised the defendant because he had a history of pickpocketing and begging and they feared he would commit further offences.

Munteanu’s defence said his understanding was that police did have his defendant’s passport and stressed that “in terms of a flight risk, police would need to show more than the fact he is a foreign national, or that they reside in a foreign jurisdiction”.

Denying bail Judge McElholm said: “It is the belief of the PSNI that this man is part of an organised crime gang and it is believed one of his companions has already fled to Romania.

“And, whilst a cash surety is available in the sum of £1,500, it is not, in my mind, sufficient to deter a flight risk. I could also not impose any bail conditions in Dublin and, therefore, conclude that the risk of flight is so serious that bail is refused.”

Munteanu was remanded in custody to appear in court via video link on March 31.