POLICE probing a wave of thefts across Northern Ireland stopped a van containing items including washing machines and a dishwasher along with “two handwritten lists referring to locations in which newbuild houses are being built,” a court has heard.
An officer told Ballymena Magistrates Court that since October last year there has been a “series of burglaries” from newbuilds comprising around 40 offences in which boilers and white goods are stolen.
The officer said the thefts “often go undetected until the builders return”.
The officer was speaking in connection with an application by Paul Murray to vary bail to get an electronic tag removed to allow him to take a two week holiday in Donegal.
The defendant is charged with handling stolen goods – two combi boilers, two washing machines, one oven, one dishwasher and one gas hob – relating to February 19 this year.
Murray, whose age was given as 52 on the charge sheet, with an address at Station Avenue in Castlewellan, County Down, is also charged with burglary and stealing household goods as well as going equipped for theft.
Objecting to the bail variation the officer said police suspected properties were being “specifically” targeted.
She said police stopped a van being driven by the defendant at Moneynick Road, Toomebridge, on Febuary 19 which contained white goods and “two handwritten lists referring to locations in which newbuild houses are being built”.
The officer said the goods in the van appeared to be new and unused and were complete with instruction manuals.
She said police enquiries established items matching the description had been stolen from ‘The Hillocks’ in Londonderry.
The policewoman said she objected to the bail variation on the grounds of “further offences” being committed and the defendant’s 86 previous convictions which included six burglaries, five going equipped, four handling stolen goods and four breaches of court orders.
The officer said the defendant told police he had collected the van in the north west and had “no idea” what was in it.
A defence solicitor said there had been no breaches since bail was granted on March 10 and Murray’s record has been “tailing off”.
He said the defendant had been “in lockdown like the rest of us” since the end of March and was seeking to vary bail to have a holiday at a relative’s property in Donegal.
District Judge Peter King said they were an “unhappy set of allegations”.
He refused the bail variation saying he was concerned about the defendant’s record.
Judge King said the circumstances of the alleged offences suggested travelling from a home address to burgle properties “to order, almost”.
He said the bail variation involved driving through the area where offences occurred to go on holiday and on balance he was not minded to grant the application.