'800 rounds' found in hate crime probe

'800 rounds' found in hate crime probe

An east Belfast man has been remanded into custody after police investigating suspected race hate crimes uncovered a sawn-off shotgun and almost 800 rounds of assorted ammunition.

Appearing in the dock of Newtownards' Magistrates Court on Thursday, Robert Thompson confirmed he understood the single charge against him.Thompson, 43 and from Stracom Corner in the Cregagh estate in east Belfast, faces a single offence of possessing a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life which occurred on Tuesday.During an opposed bail application, Detective Sergeant Ferguson outlined how police investigating the recent spate of race hate crimes raided Thompson's home under Operation Reiner having received information they were being "orchestrated by the UVF".She told the court that in a cupboard under the stairs, officers uncovered a sawn-off pump action shotgun, more than 775 rounds of assorted ammunition in a variety of sizes and calibre, a firearm magazine and a firearm adaptor.Married father-of-three Thompson was interviewed, said the officer, adding that by the fourth interview, he admitted possessing the various items be claimed he was holding the weaponry "under duress".DS Ferguson said police were "strenuously opposed" to bail as the investigation was still in its infancy, there were concerns over the safety of foreign nationals given the claims the UVF were organising the attacks and given the fact there were assorted bullets uncovered which could be used in handguns or rifles, "there are firearms which we have not recovered and he would be able to get access to".She added that other items seized in the search, such as computers, were still to be examined for potential evidence of involvement.Solicitor Dennis Boyd submitted that Thompson had been subjected to very real threats in that he was told if he refused to keep the hold-all containing the gun and bullets, "he would be shot, his wife would be shot and his children would be shot".He argued that with stringent conditions, Thompson could be released on bail as it will "take considerable time" before his claims of duress can be tested.Refusing bail however and remanding Thompson into custody to appear again on 10 June by videolink, District Judge Mark Hamill said his concern was "the sheer amount of ammunition found in his address and the whereabouts of the related firearms...is an insuperable obstacle to bail".


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