A BALACLAVA-wearing robber armed with two kitchen knives with 20-centimetre blades stole 81 packets of cigarettes worth £552 and £62 in cash during a hold-up at a shop in Ballymena’s Cushendall Road on Sunday morning, a court was told today.
Details emerged as Paul Millar (38), of Waveney Brow in Ballymena, was charged in relation to the incident which happened as staff were opening up the Vivo/WineFlair around 8.50am.
A police officer said the knives were held up in a “threatening way” to staff members whilst cash and cigarettes were demanded.
The suspect then ran up the Cushendall Road, Antrim Magistrates Court heard on Tuesday,
Millar is charged with robbery and possessing two knives as offensive weapons.
He is also charged with an attempted robbery at the same shop on September 16 this year.
Regarding November 1, police said a taxi driver had taken Millar and another male from an address in the Ballymena area to Herbison Park in the town “just before the robbery” at WineFlair.
The officer said Millar admitted during a police interview he was in the taxi and he booked it in his own name and it took him to the Herbison Park area.
The policeman said Millar got out of the taxi leaving the other male in the back and he returned, running, after about ten minutes according to an account given to police.
Millar said in interview he came back to the taxi running. He told police he had got out and spoken to a person, who he refused to name, and returned “happy” which he said was why he was running.
Millar told police he had brought his washing with the intention of leaving it off at home and denied involvement in the robbery.
The police officer said witnesses to the robbery said they believed it was Millar because of his “gait”; the “hunched” way he walks and his skinny build.
It was alleged that Millar was a regular customer at the shop and one description of him was that “he always looks as if has ‘taken something’.”
A witness also believed the robber was wearing glasses underneath the balaclava, the officer said.
The court heard at the time of the alleged offence Millar was on bail in connection with the attempted robbery at the same shop in September.
In relation to September 16 the police officer said that at 6.50pm they were called to an attempted robbery at WineFlair.
He said CCTV footage showed Millar in the store using an ATM and glancing around.
The officer said CCTV from the Waveney Brow area showed Millar and another person walking to store together and the other person – the alleged robber – stopped short and sat behind a wall.
The policeman said they believed Millar was in the store “casing out” the shop and he could then be seen crossing the carpark towards the other male who then used a “butter knife” and attempted to rob staff but his demand for cash was refused.
The officer agreed with the judge that police are alleging it was “joint enterprise”.
The policeman said both Millar and the other male were arrested the following day and when interviewed Millar said he was only in using the ATM and “didn’t have anything to do with the robbery”.
The officer said the other male denied robbery and said he hadn’t been there but was “in the house”.
The officer said Millar had 127 previous convictions including 30 for theft, two robberies and 13 burglaries and was currently before the courts on other matters.
Objecting to Millar getting bail the police officer said there was a likelihood of reoffending.
In relation to September, a defence solicitor said the defendant said he was only at the shop ATM to see if his social security benefits were in.
Regarding the November 1 incident the defence lawyer said different descriptions were given of the clothing Millar was wearing.
He added: “This is an ‘identification’ by posture and walking of a masked man”.
The solicitor said Millar told police he was a drug addict and had gone to the area to meet somebody, “and I think we can all read between the lines,” close to the Cushendall Road graveyard.
The lawyer said it will be a contested case and said it was “very much a circumstantial case”.
District judge Nigel Broderick said there was “significant suspicion” and witnesses said they could identify the defendant by his gait.
Along with Millar’s record, he said there was sufficient evidence to connect him to the charges.
The judge added: “There does appear to be an addiction to drugs that may well be fueling criminal behaviour”.
The judge refused bail on the grounds that there could be a risk of further offences.
The defendant was remanded in custody to appear at Antrim Magistrates Court on November 23.