UDA feud: Son of dead loyalist leader ‘Top Gun’ McKeag one of two men in court
Bail for the defendants was refused
Two men have appeared in court charged in connection with a petrol bomb attack in Newtownards thought to be linked to an ongoing UDA feud in the area.
Stephen McKeag (30) and Robert Montgomery (30) appeared via videolink at Newtownards Magistrates Court this morning charged with a number of offences that occurred on Sunday March 26.
McKeag, of Upper Movilla Street, appeared with his jumper slung around his shoulders and spoke to confirm he understood the charges against him of arson with intent, attempted intimidation, making and throwing of petrol bombs and possessing a quantity of Class B drugs.
McKeag is the son of Stephen ‘Top Gun’ McKeag, a UDA commander who died in 2000.
Montgomery, of Queens Square, also confirmed he understood the charges against him of arson with intent, intimidation and possession and throwing of a petrol bomb.
Both men could be seen chatting and laughing throughout the proceedings, during which a bail application for both men was refused by Judge Hamill.
A police officer told the court they were objecting to bail for both defendants, who had been identified by the occupants of a house in the Moyne Gardens area of Newtownards on Sunday night.
An injured party said they had seen both defendants outside the house and at around 10pm, heard loud bangs as the downstairs and upstairs windows were smashed simultaneously.
During a 999 call, one of the occupants noticed a petrol bomb on the ground, which they picked up and placed in the kitchen sink, sustaining burns to their hand.
Three windows were smashed during the attack, with smoke and fire damage also being sustained at the property.
During McKeag’s arrest, police found a small quantity of Class B drugs located on his person.
Objecting to bail, police said they had serious concerns there was a risk of further offending due to the incident being linked to an ongoing loyalist feud in the north Down area.
They referenced four other attacks that had occurred in the area on Tuesday night, stating they believed all the attacks were interlinked and were part of a “wide, large investigation”.
The officer said there was likely to be a breach of public order, and noted that McKeag was already on bail for a number of other alleged offences.
Defence counsel for the men said they would be unable to challenge the identification evidence until the hearing came before the court and that it was likely to take up to 12 months.
They requested bail be granted to an appropriate address with strict conditions placed on the defendants, but the application was refused by Judge Hamill.
He said the words “ongoing feud” in the police objection were pivotal and that there was a clear risk of further offending, interference with witnesses and public order breaches.
Judge Hamill indicated the defendants could challenge the decision in the High Court, and ordered both men to appear via video link at Newtownards Magistrates Court again on April 26.
It comes after a series of petrol bomb and arson attacks in Bangor, Newtownards and Ballywalter on Tuesday night.
North Down and Ards District Commander, Johnston McDowell said: “Officers received a report shortly before 9.20pm that a house had been petrol bombed in the Ballyferris Walk area of Bangor.
“We then received a second report at 9.30pm of damage being caused to a property in the Glenbrook Road area of Newtownards.
“It was reported at least two men threw bricks through the front window of the house and poured petrol onto the driveway.
“Police then received a third report at approximately 9.40pm of a petrol bomb attack at a block of flats in the Donaghadee Road area of Newtownards.
“These incidents are linked to an ongoing feud between two rival drug gangs and police are following a number of lines of enquiry.
“Thankfully, no injuries were reported on Tuesday evening. I would also like to extend my thanks to our colleagues from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service who attended.”
Police received a report of a vehicle on fire in the Meadow Close area of Ballywalter shortly before 11.05pm on Tuesday.
Detective Sergeant Westbury said: "Officers attended, along with colleagues from the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service who extinguished the blaze.
"It is believed that there were two men, all dressed in black with hoods up, in the area around the time of the fire.
"At this stage, we are treating the incident as arson.”
Doug Beattie condemned the feud, calling it “utterly moronic”.
Police have asked anyone with information to contact them via 101.
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