Man accused of campaign against hotel refused bail

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A Lurgan man who is accused of setting fire to two cars linked to staff at the Belmont Hotel in Banbridge was refused bail at the High Court last week.

Malcolm McKeown (49) allegedly took part in a campaign of arson and intimidation against the hotel after being ejected over suspected drug dealing.

He also plotted with others to torch another vehicle, prosecutors claim.

The alleged offences form part of a wider investigation into a total of 21 arson attacks on cars belonging to the hotel owners, their relatives and employees.

A further nine incidents of criminal damage to vehicles or property, and 12 episodes of graffiti also form part of the same inquiry.

McKeown, of Ashleigh Crescent in Lurgan, is charged with two counts of arson to a Renault Clio and Ford Focus on November 14 and 19.

He is further accused of conspiracy to commit arson on another Ford on September 24, and possession of Class C drugs, namely Valium.

A co-accused, Robert Foster, 39, of Hillhead Gardens in Banbridge, has already been charged with one count of arson and having Class B drugs.

The alleged campaign of intimidation stretches back to September last year, the court heard.

Conor Maguire, prosecuting, confirmed that no further attacks have taken place since the two defendants were arrested.

Mr Maguire said police believe the Belmont Hotel’s owners and staff have been targeted because McKeown was allegedly ejected over attempts to sell drugs on the premises.

“The offences have taken place with regularity and many of the victims are repeat victims who have told police they are in fear for their personal safety,” he said.

Defence counsel said McKeown has not been charged with any offences of drug dealing in the hotel. He said the prosecution case was weak.

Refusing bail Mr Justice Horner said he could not impose conditions to manage risks.