Coleraine man appears in court for firearm
A man from Coleraine appeared in court on Saturday April 16 charged with having a fully loaded and sawed off shotgun. Police believe he is linked to the North Antrim UDA.
Despite police objections to bail, District Judge Peter King said he was “absolutely amazed” to learn that the PSNI would not pay overtime for an officer involved in the inquest come to court to testify about any intelligence experience.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” said the judge who ruled without “any evidence of any connection to any organization…there is a presumption of bail” in favor of 44-year-old David Morrell.
Appearing at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court via video link from police custody, Morrell was charged with three offenses allegedly committed on April 13 and 14 this year, including possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life in addition to having the shotgun and five cartridges in suspicious circumstances.
Give evidence to court, Det. const. Gibson explained how police searched Morrell’s house on the Ballysally estate and when they told him what they were looking for, “he let them know there was a gun in the kitchen, in a hold, under cushions”.
He described how, rather than a normal double-barreled shotgun, the item seized was a fully loaded breach-loading weapon that had been adapted to carry five rounds instead of three, adding that it was ready to be used with ‘one in the breach and four in the magazine.’
A further search of his home uncovered several loyalist paramilitary flags, including the UDA and UFF, and while the officer said detectives would seize nearby CCTV footage to investigate Morrell’s claims , the weapon must be forensically tested to see if it can be linked to any paramilitary. style attacks.
Arrested and questioned, Morrell claimed he had found the gun in a bag on his way home from work the day before and had “freaked out” when he saw what was inside.
Opposing bail, DC Gibson said police believed the weapon “was linked to the North Antrim UDA” and could have been used by the banned organisation, adding that given his seizure, there could be “retaliation from this group” directed at Morrell.
Cross-examined by defense attorney John Burke, the officer admitted that Morrell had been arrested for membership in an outlawed organization, but had been “unconditionally released” in relation to that aspect of the investigation.
“It’s a bizarre business,” the attorney told District Judge Peter King, “to keep a modified, loaded gun on one’s own property is madness, because anyone who knows firearms wouldn’t let not a loaded gun in his house”.
Mr Burke said that according to Morrell neither his fingerprints nor his DNA will be found on the weapon, saying that in the absence of convictions for violence and a bail address in Ballycastle, the accused could be released.
DJ King said the unusual nature of the gun “concerns me…I don’t think I’ve ever come across a fully loaded, breach-loaded, magazine-operated shotgun” and asked the detective what the alleged links to UDA and background intelligence.
“It’s not my investigation so I’m sorry but I don’t know”, conceded DC Gibson, “the team that took care of it was unable to send an investigator” and he s is said to be surprised that given the success of the search that “they wouldn’t pay overtime for a senior officer” to come to court.
Incredulous at this, DJ King said while appreciating the candor of the officer: “I am amazed, absolutely amazed” at the position of the police.
“I do not know the context of the search but I have to face the evidence and as the police are unable to do so, I am granting bail,” the judge said, “if there had been an OI before me, there may well have been a different result.
Freeing Morell on his own bail of £750 with bail of £750, DJ King ordered him to reside at Ramoan Close in Ballycastle, observe a curfew he electronically marked and report to police twice per week.
The case was adjourned to April 25.