Derry man accused of £23k off-licence robbery

editorial image

A man has appeared in court accused of the robbery of £23,000 from an off-licence earlier this year.

Gareth Cullen, of Daly Crescent, is charged with robbery of the Chill off-licence on the Racecourse Road and possession of a firearm on February 20.

Derry Magistrates Court heard that on the morning of the robbery staff had opened up the off-licence for a delivery and for G4S to collect cash.

The front doors were locked, but the back door was left unlocked.

It is alleged that two masked men entered the off-licence through this back door, armed with a gun, and tied up the staff with cable ties.

When G4S approached the store to collect cash, one of the staff members was allegedly untied and ordered to open the door.

The court heard allegations that as the G4S staff member was walking towards the safe, a gun was put to his head and he was ordered to open it.

Money in excess of £23,000 was taken and put in a plastic bag and the masked men left the off-licence.

An investigating officer told the court a man entered a house in the Carnhill area a short time later and claimed he was running away from police.

He allegedly put a plastic bag in one bin and put a coat in another bin. It was claimed the man stayed in the house for 15 minutes but did not threaten the homeowner at any time.

Before he left the house, he allegedly told the homeowner he would be back for the plastic bag later.

The court heard that after the man left the house, a Derry City scarf and a black pair of gloves were found behind a cushion. It was revealed the plastic bag contained in excess of £23,000. It was seized by police.

The officer told the court that Cullen’s DNA was found on the Derry City scarf and on the coat.

She said the 25 year-old was arrested in July and during police interview claimed he owned a scarf like that but had lost it over a year before.

During a further interview, Cullen made no comment.

Opposing bail, the officer said police had received information that a number of witnesses have been threatened but did not wish to make statements about it.

She said police had concerns witnesses would be further intimidated now that someone has been charged.

The officer added that the handgun had not been recovered and the second masked man had not been identified.

Defence solicitor Paddy MacDermott said his client had been released on police bail since July and there was no suggestion he was linked to the intimidation of witnesses.

He added the case is likely to take some time to progress to the crown court and the 25-year-old is “not intending to go anywhere”.

Granting bail, Deputy District Judge Peter King said his “initial instincts were that you are best kept behind bars”.

The judge added he was “reassured” that Cullen is a suitable candidate for bail because the prosecution is based on DNA.

He commented; “It would be very difficult for you to intimidate a Derry City scarf”.

Cullen was released on his own bail of £500, and banned from having any contact with witnesses and from entering Chill Off-licence.

Judge King told Cullen he should “consider yourself extremely fortunate” to be getting bail.

Cullen will appear in court again on November 29.