A Co. Armagh farmer accused of involvement in a “chop shop” of high value stolen cars being run by an organised crime gang on his land was refused bail on Saturday.
Remanding 34-year-old Kyle David Coulter in custody at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Amanda Brady said it was her view that with police continuing to search his 240 acres of land, “the application for bail is premature”.
“It would be inappropriate to release him on bail while police are still at his premises searching…there’s a risk that he may interfere with witnesses or the investigative process,” said the judge.
Coulter, a dairy farmer from the Ballybreagh Road in Ahorey, outside Portadown, appeared in court via videolink from police custody where he was charged with a single count of handling stolen goods, namely cars and car parts, on May 21 this year.
Detective Constable Gillen told the court how during searches over the last two days, officers had uncovered “six shells” of stolen cars along with numerous parts “packaged in silage wrapping”.
Those discoveries, she told the court, led police to believe the farm and outbuildings were being used as a “chop shop” by an organised crime gang, highlighting that in the last year, “there’s been approximately £750,000 of high value cars stolen in NI in keyless car theft.”
The detective described how the initial search uncovered the car shells of six stolen, high value cars, dismantled parts and “what appears to be tools from a breakers yard, basically a chop shop,” revealing that the search area has had to be extended over the “expansive” farm land and is still continuing.
Arrested and interviewed nine times, Coulter claimed he had rented parts of his land and building to a man he named as Keith Winter, who in turn had apparently employed “two foreign men” and the detective told the court that throughout, he maintained he had neither knowledge nor involvement in the chop shop or crime gang.
Under cross examination from defence solicitor Gabriel Ingram, DC Gillen said Coulter had offered “little evidence” of renting out any of his land or property and refuted the lawyers suggestion the discoveries were made “some distance away” from the farm home.
“I would not say that at all,” said the officer, “it’s on his property, just off to the side of it – he works a dairy farm so he goes through it and across it twice daily.”
Mr Ingram told the court Coulter has “260 head of dairy cattle” and if remanded into custody, there was no one else able to look after the animals.
“He completely and categorically denies any knowledge or involvement in this offence,” declared the lawyer, submitting that with conditions, the father-of-one could be freed on bail.
DJ Brady disagreed however and refused the bail application which she said was “premature.”
Remanding Coulter into custody, the judge adjourned his case until 19 June.