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Monday, May 20, 2024

Belfast: Man lying beside pipe bomb claims he was abducted

A police officer stands beside a police car parked at a cordon at Dundela Street, where Kieran Smithson and the pipe bomb were found

A man who was found lying beside a pipe bomb in east Belfast claims he was abducted and given the device over a £5,000 drugs debt, a court has heard.

Kieran Smithson, 24, was arrested amid a security alert at Dundela Street on Tuesday morning.

He appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, charged with possessing explosives in suspicious circumstances.

Mr Smithson is also accused of criminal damage and attempted criminal damage to two vehicles.

During the hearing on Wednesday the court was told that police were sent to Dundela Street just after 05:00 BST the previous day when residents were woken by loud noises and the sound of laughing.

One woman allegedly identified Mr Smithson kicking a car while another resident claimed he had thrown an object at a van parked nearby.

He then walked along the street carrying an item and sat on a windowsill before getting on to the ground, according to witnesses.

Minutes later police located Mr Smithson, from Connsbrook Avenue in Belfast, lying outside that property.

‘Pipe bomb-style device’

A detective said: “They observed a pipe bomb-style device beside him.

“This has been examined and is found to contain explosive compounds.”

The pipe bomb was described as 12 inches (30cm) long, with a fuse and wrapped in masking tape.

“This led to a significant security alert, with multiple people evacuated from their homes,” said the detective.

During a police interview the defendant claimed he had been abducted by four men in a car the previous night.

A police officer stands at a cordon at Dundela Street, where Kieran Smithson and the pipe bomb were found

He said the men took him to a sports pitch where he was assaulted and threatened for not paying a £5,000 drugs debt.

He refused to identify the men, saying feared for his safety, the court heard.

The detective said: “He stated he was then returned to the area of Connsbrook Avenue by the gang following the assault, where they handed him an item wrapped in masking tape.”

Mr Smithson claimed to have limited memory of what happened subsequent to that, due to drinking earlier that night, but he denied knowing what it was he had allegedly been given.

The detective accepted that the accused, who is originally from England, has no known connections to paramilitary gangs.

A defence solicitor argued that Mr Smithson had provided a full explanation in the police interviews.

“It’s a most bizarre incident and my client wouldn’t have the wherewithal or the nous to construct such a device,” he said.

“He was heavily under the influence of drink; his case is that he was simply handed this device.”

The judge refused bail, saying that there was a risk that the defendant could reoffend.

“He’s alleged to have… possessed a bomb,” said the judge.

“The circumstances of the possession are, on his case, unusual and give me concern.”

Mr Smithson was remanded in custody to appear in court again on 23 November.

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