Duo denied bail for ‘car theft spree’

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Two men in their 20s accused of a Boxing Night car-stealing spree in Derry must remain in custody, a High Court judge has ruled.

Ruairi Saunders and Daniel Kelly were allegedly involved in house break-ins where three vehicles were taken within hours, prosecutors said.

The pair were arrested after one of the cars, an Audi A2, was set on fire in the city’s Rosemount estate early on December 27.

Saunders, (28), of Duddys Court, and Kelly, (26), from Epworth Street - both in Derry - face charges including burglary, aggravated vehicle taking, arson, attempted vehicle taking and handling property stolen in the Republic of Ireland.

Cars were stolen first from addresses at Aberfoyle Crescent and then Farren Park on December 26.

Prosecutors claimed the second vehicle was taken after the thieves crashed the first one into a wall on Strand Road.

Early the next morning a woman was then wakened in her Joseph Place home by a man demanding the keys to her disabled mother’s car parked outside, the court heard.

Although that vehicle was not taken, the Audi A2 was stolen from nearby Westland Avenue.

It was claimed that this vehicle was involved in a break-in across the border at a Buncrana newsagents where 400 euros was stolen.

Police later pursued the Audi to Lowry’s Lane where they found it ablaze, the court was told.

Saunders and Kelly were detained after three men fled from the area, according to the prosecution.

Crown lawyer Kate McKay said a circumstantial case is alleged against them.

She told the court: “This can only be described as a spree which took place over Boxing Day and the early hours of the following day.”

But Sean Doherty, defending, claimed there was no evidence connecting either accused to the burglaries.

He said the only link with Kelly was being arrested 500 metres from the scene of the burning car.

The barrister also questioned the reliability of an alleged CCTV sighting of Saunders at the Buncrana newsagents.

However, Mr Justice Stephens held that a prima facie case has been established against both defendants.

Refusing bail, he said: “There’s a risk of further offences and a risk of further gross intrusion into people’s homes, property and putting at risk their security.”