Five in court over shoplifting spree

Five in court over shoplifting spree

Five men have appeared in court in Londonderry accused of being members of a sophisticated cross-border gang of shoplifters.

At the city's Magistrates' Court, a police officer told District Judge Barney McElholm that following their arrests on Wednesday, the defendants told her that they were considering setting up a consultancy firm to advise retailers on how to detect shoplifters.The five face a combined total of 78 dishonesty offences. They are alleged to have committed the crimes at retail premises on both sides of the border between 14 March and 5 August.The court heard two of them were arrested outside Strand Road Police Station trying to sell stolen goods, among them hair straighteners, to members of the public.One of the five is charged separately with possessing criminal property, namely £2,500 which the police witness said was found wrapped in toilet paper stuffed between his buttocks.A Proceeds of Crime application for a six-month detention of the cash was granted by the District Judge.Three of the defendants are Glaswegians - with addresses in Derry - Michael Brown, 26, from Lower Nassau Street, Brian McCool, 39, from Lawrence Hill and Liam Graham Harvey, 27, from Abercorn Road.Their co-defendants are Dubliner Kevin Nolan, 41, who has an address at Stradowen Drive in the Strathfoyle area of Derry and Richard Greene, 38, who is originally from Athlone and who also has an address at Lower Nassau Street.It was the defendant Greene who was allegedly found with the £2,500 between his buttocks.The police officer said that CCTV footage showed that the modus operandi of the defendants was that four of them would distract shop security staff whilst the fifth member would deposit stolen items in a tinfoil lined shopping bag which had a lid attached to it. The goods stolen included clothes, hair straighteners and electric shavers.The officer said a forensic analysis of the defendants' mobile 'phones linked them to one another."They were organised together in this sophisticated criminal venture and further inquiries may reveal other crimes," she said.A solicitor for one of the defendants disputed the officer's description of the defendants as being members of a sophisticated gang."Trying to hawk their goods outside Strand Road Police Station in the middle of the day is not the action of a sophisticated shoplifter", he said.All five were remanded in custody to appear for a video-link hearing on 4 September.


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