Published Friday, 23 November 2012
Patients were targeted by thieves while they slept. (© UTV)
Mobile phones, a handbag, a watch and headphones were said to have been taken from three patients, before hospital security staff were alerted in the early hours of 15 October.
One elderly woman woke to find a man by her bedside and challenged both him and an accomplice, while another sedated victim realised someone was in his room but thought it was medical staff.
Details emerged as bail was refused to one of two men accused of stealing from the patients.
Gerard Madden, 21 and from Aspen Park in Dunmurry, denies two counts of burglary and another attempted burglary charge.
A lawyer for the prosecution told the court that the elderly woman, who had woken up to see a man drinking from a bottle by her bed, noticed her mobile phone was missing.
She went after the man, who had been pulled away by a second intruder, to get her phone back.
"She followed them into the hallway and demanded it back. She was plucky enough to challenge them," the lawyer said.
The court further heard that the intruders were found in a third floor theatre area, claiming they had just been "going for a dander".
Searches recovered a variety of suspected stolen items, while more were found on a stairwell.
Judge Mr Justice Burgess was told that CCTV footage shows the suspects leaving the accident and emergency area and wandering through the hospital.
Burglary charges were brought because the wards are closed to the public after 8pm, with access only gained by a swipe card system.
Defence counsel Michael Ward accepted that the allegations involved "an abhorrent course of conduct" and added that Madden had been taken to A&E by his co-accused after suffering a seizure.
"His recollection of events is somewhat scant," he said.
"He would say he was quite delirious at the time owing to the seizure he had taken hours before."
But Mr Justice Burgess refused bail and added: "This was a dreadful experience for these ladies and this gentleman in a place where they were vulnerable.
"They were already undergoing considerable trauma in their lives and to find people in their private wards at 3am would have caused considerable fear and left considerable apprehension."