Alleged serial shoplifter who is banned from entering every shop in Northern Ireland denies entering a Ballymena store in the run up to Christmas

AN alleged serial thief whose bail conditions ban her from entering every retail outlet in Northern Ireland denies being in a store in the run up to Christmas.

Deirdre Anne McKeown (53), of Ashbourne Manor in Ballymena, is accused of being in a Co-op shop in Ballymena around 8.30am on Monday December 23.

CCTV images were played to Antrim Magistrates Court on Christmas Eve and a police officer said she was confident it was the defendant in the video.

The police officer said an off-duty member of the PSNI spotted McKeown at the Co-op.

McKeown denies being in the shop and says she was tidying up her garage and sheds.

The defendant was on bail in connection with two alleged thefts from a Spar shop at Galgorm on two dates in August this year when sandwiches worth £6 and food and beverages worth £14 were taken.

At Antrim Magistrates Court on Tuesday the defendant had those cases sent to Antrim Crown Court for arraignment in January.

As part of her bail the defendant is barred from every shop in Northern Ireland and the Christmas Eve court also heard about the alleged bail breach.

A police officer told the court that at the time of the alleged visit to the Co-op by McKeown the G4S security company also said a monitoring device regarding the defendant showed she left her home at 6.47am and did not return to 8.43am.

The officer objected to bail saying the defendant had “quite a history of shoplifting” and a number of bail breaches.

Defence barrister Michael Smyth said McKeown disputed the bail breach and denied it was her in the footage.

The defendant entered the witness box to tell the court: “It is definitely not me, I was at home all day”.

She said she had only left her house to tidy up her garden and garage.

The defendant said that after previously being remanded in custody for a month her house was “in a bit of a mess” when she got out of prison and on Monday morning she was “busy cleaning”.

She said she had no reason to leave the area of her home as she had ordered £250 worth of shopping online from Tesco which was delivered to her door.

Refusing bail, District Judge Nigel Broderick said the defendant’s explanation “lacks any credibility” and he accepted the evidence that it was McKeown in the footage and ruled that she had breached her bail.

The court was told the defendant has 79 previous convictions including 33 for theft.

The judge said a bail condition meant that the defendant “must not enter any retail outlet in the entirety of the province”.

He said McKeown had a “very chequered bail history”.

He added said the defendant “simply cannot help herself” and had a “very prolific disposition to stealing from shops”.

Judge Broderick refused bail on the grounds of a risk of further offending and the defendant was remanded in custody ahead of appearing at Antrim Crown Court in mid-January.

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