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Man accused of threatening ex-partner with gun weeps in court as bail is refused

He held his head in his hands before being led away by a police officer after appearing before court via video link

A Co. Armagh man accused of beating and bullying his ex-partner, allegedly threatening her with a gun, wept in court on Monday as a judge refused to grant him bail.

As District Judge Nigel Broderick announced that he was remanding Neil Byrne into custody, the 26-year-old, who appeared in court via videolink from a police station, burst into tears, holding his head in his hands before being lead away by a police officer.

Byrne, a self employed plumber from the Mill Road in Mullaghbawn, faces a catalogue of 17 charges, allegedly committed on various dates between March 24 and May 23 this year.

These include kidnapping, assault, making threats to kill, threatening to destroy property, harassment, improper use of a telecommunication network, possession of ammunition under suspicious circumstances, attempted choking, theft, possessing a weapon, namely an extendable baton, with intent to kidnap and having a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Giving evidence to Lisburn Magistrates’ Court, Detective Constable Graham said she believed she could connect Byrne to each of the offences and that police were objecting to him being freed “to protect a vulnerable person” and because he was likely to commit further offences.

She described how the police investigation began on May 18 when officers received a phone call reporting the woman was “being dragged into the defendant’s car” at a location in Newry.

Officers went to her home and arrested Byrne for kidnapping, said the officer, adding that he was then freed on police bail pending further enquiries.

As part of those enquiries, the court heard how the complainant underwent three Achieving Best Evidence video interviews with officers where she alleged there had been repeated incidents of domestic abuse during their relationship.

She claimed that Byrne had pointed a handgun at her and threatened “I will use this if I have to”, grabbed her by the hair and throat, punching her several times, poured dishwater over her, followed her around Newry, threatened to burn down her home and her friend’s home, stole her phone to send threatening messages to friends, and climbed onto the roof of her home and “banged” the windows.

Arrested and interviewed Byrne did accept that he had pushed her to the ground at one stage and had been in the roof of her house but denied that he had assaulted her, choked her, pointed a gun at her or that he had threatened her.

During a search of Byrne’s house, police recovered a quantity of blank firing rounds and the court heard that his gun licence was revoked last year when there had been an earlier allegation of domestic violence which was later withdrawn by the complainant.

Defence solicitor Ciaran Rafferty argued that he could be freed with conditions to assuage police concerns such as no contact and an exclusion zone, claiming that Byrne has suffered an injury allegedly inflicted by his ex-partner.

When District Judge Broderick asked why Byrne had been on the woman’s roof banging the window, Mr Rafferty suggested that rather than being a “sinister” incident, “it would appear a rather foolish, romantic gesture”.

The district judge said while he was not trying the case, “the multiplicity of the complaints, the limited admissions and some corroborative evidence from neighbours…I believe there’s a strong prime facie case against him”.

“My concern would be that if released there would be a risk of further offences and a risk that he could interfere with the witness,” said District Judge Broderick.

A crying Byrne was remanded into custody until June 17.

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