Pair accused of robbing Derriaghy shop refused bail

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Two alleged robbers had a “tug of war” over a till drawer they were trying to steal from a Derriaghy newsagents, a court heard on Monday.

Lisburn Magistrates Court also heard claims that when police arrested 38-year-old Benny McCullagh and Gareth Dunleavy (37), the stolen till was in the back seat of Dunleavy’s car.

McCullagh, from Alina Gardens in Dunmurry and Dunleavy, from Montgomery Drive in Lisburn, are jointly charged with robbery of Gwen’s newsagents, assaulting the owner, her false imprisonment and having weapons - Dunleavy a hammer and McCullagh an iron bar.

Unemployed father-of-three Dunleavy is further charged with failing to provide a specimen of breath and two counts of causing criminal damage to the newsagents counter and three shop windows, all alleged to have been committed on September 23.

The officer in charge of the case, Detective Constable Adams, told the court he believed he could connect both men to their respective charges and that police objected to them being freed on bail amid fears they would either reoffend or interfere with witnesses in the investigation.

He told the court the shop’s co-owner was in the storeroom at around 8am when two men, their faces covered using hoods and sunglasses, stormed in to the premises shouting demands and “money and a safe.”

The officer described how, according to CCTV footage seized in the investigation, McCullagh initially stands inside the door holding it closed with his foot while Dunleavy, said to be the “main aggressor” in the incident, goes into the storeroom.

The female co-owner tried to get out the front door but McCullagh “pulls her back into the shop and Dunleavy rushes to assist”, claimed the detective, adding that Dunleavy allegedly used the hammer to smash the counter while McCullagh “reaches over to grasp the till,” dropping his metre-long metal bar in the process.

“McCullagh and the injured party are in a tug of war over the till and Dunleavy goes to help and as the pair leave, he strikes the windows with a hammer,” DC Adams told the court.

Court heard how the pair drove off in a silver Vauxhall Vectra, which was later found in Graham Street in the city with the till sitting in the back seat, while the defendants were arrested inside.

The detective said police were objecting to bail amid fears the pair would reoffend or interfere with witnesses.

Refusing bail on those grounds, District Judge Rosie Watters remanded the pair into custody to appear again via videolink on October 23.