Court hears pensioner accused of stealing fire engine 'fascinated with blue lights'
The court heard claims the 66-year-old had a fascination with blue lights and had made 20 hoax calls to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service from March 2014.
The trail of destruction left in the wake of a stolen fire engine was like a trailer for the next Hangover movie, a court in Northern Ireland has also been told.
A pensioner and a teenager charged with stealing the appliance and embarking on a drive of devastation have been released on bail.
The court heard how Robert Duffin, 66, from Green Link, Larne, Co Antrim has a fascination for blue lights while co-accused Ross Clarke, 19, of Fairway, Larne, had never driven a vehicle before.
Both men appeared at Ballymena Magistrates' Court via video-link.
The stolen engine, with its flashing lights on, careered into eight parked vehicles before crashing into a number of terraced homes in Glenarm Road in Larne during the early hours of Saturday March 5.
Residents were met with a startling scene when they were awoken by the crashing appliance around 4.30am.
Cars were strewn across the road - one flipped on to its roof - with the fire engine having come to a halt in the front gardens of a number of the terraced houses.
The court heard that Clarke, who has a severe learning disability, was behind the wheel.
He is accused of 14 offences, including burglary, dangerous driving, driving without an appropriate licence or insurance and aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to vehicles and houses.
The teenager had never driven any vehicle, according to his defence barrister, Neil Moore.
District Judge Des Perry said: "His first venture was hugely unsuccessful."
Damage to the fire station was caused during an attempt to reverse the stolen engine back into place, the lawyer claimed.
The judge described elements of the case as "farcical", adding that he understood the driver had stopped at a red light and did not go down a one-way street.
The court was also told that young people often flocked to Duffin's home for a few drinks.
Mr Moore added: "That's what happened this night."
The pensioner is facing five counts, including burglary and aggravated vehicle taking causing damage to vehicles and houses.
His defence barrister, Stephen Law, described said the scenario was like something from a film.
"It is so bizarre it is like a trailer for the next Hangover movie," he said.
The court also heard claims the 66-year-old had a fascination with blue lights and had made 20 hoax calls to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service from March 2014.
Clarke had been present when half the hoax calls were made, it was claimed.
Mr Law said his client "refuted" allegations that he had made any hoax calls.
Meanwhile, police objections to bail included the likelihood of re-offending and the potential to interfere with witnesses.
The officer said there were also concerns for both men's safety because of a public outcry that the incident had resulted in a shortage of fire engines.
A PSNI detective said: "It would appear Mr Duffin has a fascination for blue lights which escalated into the events last weekend."
However, white-haired Duffin, who was dressed in a bright yellow sweatshirt, interjected: "No way."
Both men were released on their own bail of £500.
They are to be electronically tagged and have been barred from entering Larne.
The court also imposed curfews, ordered them to report to police three times a week and banned both men from using or possessing mobile phones.
Clarke was bailed to an address at Rathcoole on the outskirts of north Belfast while Duffin's bail address was given as a Simon Community property in Newry, Co Down.
Judge Perry added: "I hope they lock up their fire engines."
The case will be heard again on April 7.