PSNI fears for loyalist violence escalation as men charged with petrol bomb attacks appear in court
A judge was told of police fears of further escalation of a loyalist feud in Co Down as he refused bail for two men accused of taking part in one attack linked to the dispute.
Robert Montgomery and Stephen Daniel McKeag, both 30, appeared before a district judge in Newtownards Magistrates' Court on Wednesday charged with a series of offences related to a petrol bomb attack on a house in the town on Sunday night.
They both deny involvement.
Rejecting a bail application and remanding the men in custody, judge Mark Hamill said the fact the feud was "ongoing" increased the risk further offences would be committed.
The accused are alleged to have been part of a gang of around six people who took part in an attack on a home in Moyne Gardens that saw three windows of the house smashed and two petrol bombs thrown inside.
Montgomery, of Queens Square, Newtownards, and McKeag, of Upper Movilla Street in the town, appeared before court via videolink from a police custody suite.
They spoke briefly at the outset of the hearing to confirm they understood the charges facing them.
Montgomery has been charged with arson endangering life with intent; intimidation causing a person to leave a residence or place of occupation; possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances; and throwing a petrol bomb.
McKeag has been charged with arson endangering life with intent; attempted intimidation causing a person to leave a residence or place of occupation; making a petrol bomb; throwing a petrol bomb; and possession of a class B controlled drug, namely cannabis.
A police officer told the court he could connect the accused to the charges.
McKeag was also charged in relation to other offences that occurred on March 1, namely disorderly behaviour in the Ulster Hospital; assault on a police officer; and possession of class B drug cannabis.
Police outlined a series of concerns around the granting of bail, including the risk of further offences, witness interference and public disorder.
The investigating officer told the court that Montgomery answered "no comment" throughout police interviews while McKeag denied involvement but failed to provide a "solid alibi".
"The incident under investigation was one a series of incidents of similar nature believed to be due to a loyalist feud within North Down and Ards and there is fear of escalation between these factions," the officer told the court.
The court heard the police were relying on identification evidence to bring the charges against the men.
Making the bail application, defence barrister Conor Holmes conceded it was difficult to challenge identification evidence before the full case file was presented before the court, something he said could take 12 months.
He said his clients denied responsibility.
"Neither client is accepting any responsibility for this, they are saying they are not the persons responsible for this," he said.
Dismissing the bail application, judge Hamill remanded the two accused in custody to appear before court again on April 26.
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