Guns and explosives found behind plasterboard and inside schoolbag, court hears

Belfast magistrates court, credit utv

Guns and explosives were found in homes hidden behind plasterboard and inside a school bag during an operation targeting the East Belfast UVF, a court heard today. Police revealed the storage locations as two former soldiers were among four men from the city remanded into custody on weapons charges connected to the seizures. William Baker, 51, his 47-year-old brother Robin Baker, Bryce Pounder, 34, and Noel Bambrick, 49, were arrested during last Friday’s raids.

Officers from the PSNI’s Paramilitary Crime Task Force recovered eight handguns and three pipe bombs from houses and business premises in the lower Newtownards Road area. Two vehicles, assorted bullets, balaclavas and UVF flags were also seized. William and Robin Baker, both of Belvoir Street; Pounder, from the Newtownards Road; and Bambrick, of Connswater Grove, all face charges of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life and in suspicious circumstances. The two brothers and Pounder are further accused of having explosives with intent to endanger life. Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the intelligence-led searches were carried out against the activities of the East Belfast UVF. Six guns, a large quantity of ammunition, two pipe bombs and two smoke grenades were found at the home shared by the Bakers. An investigating detective said the haul was stored behind plasterboard in a void between the living room and kitchen area. During interviews William Baker claimed he had been given a bag of items to hold onto as a favour after problems with a neighbour holding all-night parties was resolved. Defence solicitor Fergal MacElhatton submitted: “Although there was no overt threat, he believed that if he didn’t comply with this request he would be killed.”

William Baker also claimed that his brother knew nothing about the haul. A lawyer representing Robin Baker described his client as a vulnerable and isolated individual with limited reading and writing skills. In separate searches at Pounder’s apartment, police recovered a pipe bomb, handgun, silencer and assorted ammunition, the court heard. Some of the material was found in a school bag and a holdall under the bed. Pounder was detained at another address, with the detective claiming he had gone there in a bid to evade arrest. He told police that menacing individuals instructed him to keep the holdall after he had amassed an £1,800 drug debt. During the hearing it was revealed that Pounder formerly served as a rifleman with a regiment based in Yorkshire. Bambrick faces a further charge of possessing articles for use in terrorism in connection with a hoax explosive device and balaclavas allegedly located at his home. Police also recovered a suspected Webley gun loaded with six rounds of ammunition, a number of UVF jumpers and flags. Bambrick, said to have previously been in the Royal Irish Regiment, denied knowledge of the device and disputed that the weapon seized was a real firearm. The jumpers were connected to an event to commemorate the contribution made to loyalism by the late Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine, it was claimed. The defendants all denied being members of the UVF. District Judge Mark McGarrity refused bail applications mounted by both Bakers and Pounder. All four men were remanded in custody, to appear again next month.

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