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Man sentenced to eight-and-a-half years for number of armed robberies and involvement in kidnapping

Paul Beggs

Paul HigginsBelfast Telegraph

A Co Antrim man who admitted carrying out a handful of armed robberies and a “very sinister” incident in which a terrified kidnap victim was cable-tied and abandoned in a derelict house has been handed an eight-and-a-half-year sentence.

Ordering Paul Robert Beggs to serve half his sentence in jail and half on supervised licence, Newry Crown Court’s Judge Neil Rafferty KC said that while he accepted the 31-year-old was not involved in the actual kidnap, he had quickly and “very actively” involved himself in holding the victim hostage so, “in my view, he is equally culpable”.

Beggs, a heroin addict from James Street in Ballymena, had entered guilty pleas to three counts of robbery and single offences of false imprisonment, theft from person, having a gun to cause fear, making off without payment and arson, all committed within hours of each other on March 21 and March 22, 2019.

While Beggs, who appeared at court by video-link from prison today, was sentenced, police are still hunting his co-accused, Mark McCormack (38), from Lisburn, who has absconded.

Summarising the case during his sentencing remarks, Judge Rafferty outlined how a student was getting out of his Seat Ibiza car on the Castlereagh Road in east Belfast when he was approached by two men, one of whom had a black handgun.

They ordered him back into the car and, chillingly, his phone, driving licence and wallet were taken from him, with his personal details and address “read back to him and he was made to confirm the details were correct”.

With the victim tied at the wrists and ordered into the boot, Beggs got into the car and the victim could see he had a three-inch scar on his face and part of his nose missing.

“Beggs told the victim that the UDA had done that a week before when they got him to join up,” said the judge, adding the “clear implication being that Beggs was a member of a paramilitary organisation”.

At one point, the victim was aware of a female looking in at him in the boot and, knowing a gun was in the car, his assailants demanded the PIN codes for his phone and bank cards, with the threats that if the codes were wrong he would be kneecapped.

Driving around Belfast, the victim was allowed to use the toilet before being put back into the boot and “as some apprentice gesture, offered a line of cocaine”.

Eventually, the car pulled up outside a derelict house, where the victim was escorted inside, taken upstairs and bound hand and foot to a towel rail by Beggs but, again, as another gesture, he was left with two bottles of beer “in case he got thirsty”.

Having sat there petrified for hours, the victim realised the men weren’t coming back, so he managed to free himself and left the house, before drawing the attention of a passer-by driving along the Hannahstown Road.

That driver, who Judge Rafferty said should be commended for stopping, told police the victim was so terrified of repercussions he initially didn’t want to tell the PSNI.

Meanwhile, Beggs, McCormack and an accomplice had driven the stolen Seat Ibiza to the Stranmillis area of south Belfast, where they robbed two students at gunpoint in the early hours of March 22.

Noticing the gun was “pointing at them”, the two victims were pushed against a wall and had their phones and wallets robbed before the trio drove off.

The next stage in the “spree of criminality” was about an hour later at a garage on the Andersonstown Road, where Beggs tried to use the kidnap victim’s bank card to pay for petrol.

When the card was refused and retained, the trio sped off and the car was later found burnt out, but Beggs’ DNA was retrieved from the bank card and he was later arrested and charged.

Judge Rafferty revealed that Beggs has 102 previous convictions, which was just one of the “significant aggravating factors” attached to the case, adding that others included the use of a firearm, actual violence being used, that the victim was held and tied up for eight to nine hours, and that it was all part of a crime spree.

Jailing Beggs, Judge Rafferty said there was an argument for consecutive sentences which would have resulted in a sentence “well into double figures”, but that in applying the totality principle and credit for his guilty pleas, he imposed an eight-and-a-half-year sentence.

Welcoming the sentence, Detective Inspector Michael McDonnell said: “This must have been an absolutely terrifying event. It was a prolonged, cowardly and cruel ordeal — one which, without doubt, will never be forgotten.”


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