Nine men in vans laden with machetes ‘were on their way to a family member’s funeral’
Nine men stopped in vans loaded with machetes, a sword and a tomahawk ax allegedly prevented from causing serious disorder, a court heard.
Police also revealed bottles containing a suspected corrosive substance were discovered in one of the vehicles stopped in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim on Saturday.
The men were arrested on their way to the funeral of a family member, a judge said.
Details emerged as all nine men were remanded in custody at Belfast Magistrates’ Court on charges of publicly possessing assault weapons.
Appearing via video link: James Doherty, 31, Martin Doherty, 18, and John Doherty, 35, all from Antrim Road, Newtownabbey; Barney Doherty (23) of Longlands Avenue in Newtownabbey; Daniel Dundon (25) of Whitewell Road; James Dundon (20) of Felden Avenue; Brian Bradley (41) from Knockenagh Walk – all in Newtownabbey – alongside Michael Bellew (38) and Damien Birch (30), with addresses in Northview Manor and Thorndale Avenue in Belfast.
A detective said police were alerted by a member of the public that two vans were transporting a number of weapons in the area.
Officers stopped the vehicles on Swanston Road North and a short distance away on Antrim Road.
The search uncovered two machetes, a sword, a tomahawk-style hatchet, a modified pike and a switchblade, the court heard.
Two water bottles containing a suspected corrosive substance were also confiscated and are being forensically examined.
According to the detective, all the weapons seized were available to the occupants of the two vans.
She said: “Police believe a serious disturbance was about to take place and this was disrupted.”
She resisted the defendants’ requests for bail, claiming, “If they are released, there is a strong possibility that these men will get back together and carry out an assault.”
The court heard the defendant was planning to attend a funeral and then travel on to eat at a bar in Antrim.
Although no putative target was named, the detective claimed: “We believe there was a clear preparation, some of the weapons were modified.”
Defense attorneys argued it was just a “police hypothesis” that something would happen.
When asked if testimony had been given, the detective replied, “No, the reporter was approached and declined to testify for fear of reprisals.”
Each of the defendants was denied bail because of the risk of possible further criminal offenses.
District Judge Steven Keown has remanded all nine people until next month.
He said: “The case presented paints the picture of an organised, premeditated operation using numerous and extremely dangerous weapons.
“The clear conclusion is that they intended to inflict extreme violence on one or more unknown individuals without a report being made to the police to address these concerns.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/courts/nine-men-in-vans-loaded-with-machetes-were-on-way-to-funeral-of-family-member-42320428.html Nine men in vans laden with machetes ‘were on their way to a family member’s funeral’