RESIDENTS rushed out and extinguished flames after a man allegedly tried to set fire to a stolen car which crashed into the gable wall of a home in an early morning incident near Portglenone, a court heard.
Michael Murray (31), with an address at a hostel at Curran Road in Larne, appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court charged with the aggravated taking of a black Vauxhall Astra belonging to a friend of his girlfriend’s from Gracehill near Ballymena.
He is also charged with attempting to destroy the car by fire; stealing a hoodie belonging to the car owner; and having cannabis.
He is further charged with being uninsured and unlicensed to drive at Mayogall Road near Clady outside Portglenone on Saturday January 5 this year.
A police officer said the defendant could be connected to the charges.
Objecting to bail, the officer said a car was reported stolen from Gracehill at 5.15am after the defendant had been at an address with his new girlfriend who was a friend of the vehicle owner.
The court heard Murray said he was “going to the bathroom” but left and the car was later discovered missing.
Twenty minutes later police received a report of a road traffic collision at an address near Portglenone where the car had struck a gable wall of a house causing damage and residents came out and extinguished a fire which had been “started on the driver’s seat”.
At 10.40am police found the defendant sleeping in a ditch and he was allegedly in possession of cannabis.
The officer said the alleged offences occurred while Murray, who has 34 previous convictions, was on bail in relation to a case in Fermanagh.
The officer said the only damage caused by the fire in the car was to the seat.
A defence lawyer said Murray had left Enniskillen after being subjected to a “very bad beating” and had gone to live at a hostel in Larne.
“He had being doing so well. The idea of living away from Enniskillen was to try to reduce his offending,” said the lawyer.
The lawyer said that whilst in custody on Saturday January 5, the defendant heard his grandmother had died.
Remanding the defendant into custody, Deputy District Judge Peter Magill, said it appeared to be a “blatant” taking of a vehicle which Murray later allegedly tried to destroy.
He said Murray had been on bail awaiting sentencing for fraud and assaulting police and was also on Probation.
The case was adjourned to Ballymena Magistrates Court on January 10.