Man appears in court after allegedly setting fire to Michaella McCollum’s bin

As he was arrested Martin Joseph Groogan (40) yelled, “F***ing rats. What are you arresting me for? F***ing scumbags”

Michaella McCollum

Michaella McCollum (left) and Scottish national Melissa Reid following their arrest by police in Lima, Peru, in August 2013.© REUTERS

Belfast Telegraph

A man who allegedly set fire to a bin belonging to convicted drugs mule Michaella McCollum has appeared in court.

Martin Joseph Groogan faces three sets of charges, including domestic violence matters of assaulting another, unrelated female and damaging her car on January 28.

The following day Groogan (40), from Gortin Crescent, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, allegedly set fire to Ms McCollum’s bin, used disorderly behaviour near her home, resisted arrest, had a lighter for use in arson and attempted to damage a PSNI vehicle.

Another charge, which had been under investigation and predates the latest matters, alleges Groogan damaged a door and stairway belonging to Clanmil Housing Association by fire on November 12, last year.

A police officer confirmed all charges could be connected.

She explained a report was received of suspicious activity in Dungannon during the early hours of January 29, when the bin was found on fire.

As officers drove to the scene a further report came in of a disturbance in a different but nearby housing development, where Groogan was discovered hiding behind a fence.

He became extremely aggressive, struggling violently with officers and shouting foul language.

On being moved to a police vehicle he yelled, “F***ing rats. What are you arresting me for? F***ing scumbags.”

He remained hostile, kicking the rear passenger window of the vehicle.

Michaella McCollum (left) and Scottish national Melissa Reid following their arrest by police in Lima, Peru, in August 2013.© REUTERS

Due to the level of aggression police requested a cell van, but Groogan’s volatile behaviour continued, and he repeatedly struck his head off the vehicle interior.

While in custody, he was further arrested for allegedly throwing a petrol bomb at the housing association property, for which he had been wanted for questioning.

In relation to the domestic violence charges, the court heard Groogan’s ex-partner contacted police claiming he had become aggressive after arriving at her home.

She said the relationship had ended due to his controlling behaviour, but he wouldn’t leave her alone.

“The ex-partner remains scared of him and hasn’t made a statement as she is aware of his domestic violence background,” said the officer.

Opposing bail, she told the court Groogan has over 100 previous convictions.

A defence solicitor said his client accepts “reacting badly to police” but denies any connection to the bin arson and to the alleged petrol bomb attack at the housing association property.

On the domestic matters, the defence pointed out the ex-partner hasn’t made a statement and is unlikely to do so.

Groogan, he added, would comply with any bail terms imposed, but District Judge Alana McSorley refused due to a risk of reoffending.

She ordered Groogan to appear again by videolink at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court later this month.

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