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Man accused of wave of burglaries at a County Antrim monastery is remanded in custody

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MONKS were left frightened by a series of middle-of-the-night burglaries at their monastery in County Antrim, a court heard on Thursday.

A 42-year-old man accused of three burglaries and one attempted burglary at Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey monastery in Portglenone was refused bail on Thursday.

Gareth Steven Patrick Hyndman, whose address was given as Coleraine Street in Kilrea, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court.

The defendant is accused of stealing £600 in cash at the monastery on January 25 this year; on January 30 he allegedly stole £5 in cash and a key and he is charged with burglary of the monastery with intent to steal on February 15.

The defendant is also accused of the attempted burglary of the monastery with intent to steal on March 24.

Hyndman appeared at court via video link from Maghaberry Prison where he was remanded the previous Friday after initially appearing at Coleraine Magistrates Court.

At Ballymena Court on Thursday a police officer objected to bail and said that between January 25 and March 24 police were investigating three burglaries and one attempted burglary at Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey.

The officer said police attended at 3am on January 25 after a report from a monk of a male walking along a corridor at an accommodation block.

It was discovered that £600 was stolen from an office.

A pick axe was found which had been used to gain entry through a window.

At 2.10am on January 30 police received another report of an intruder at the monastery when £5 and a key was taken.

It was also established that in another incident a male had broken a window and entered a Confessional Chapel but made off when challenged by a monk.

On March 24 a monk heard a noise in a laundry room and a male made off, the officer said.

The policewoman said a forensic report on the pick axe showed a DNA link to the defendant and a footwear mark matched a trainer owned by Hyndman.

The officer said the defendant also had a jacket similar to that seen on CCTV.

The policewoman said Hyndman denied all the matters saying he was in bed and said the DNA was not his.

The officer objected to bail saying they were “serious offences” which had left “elderly and vulnerable monks very frightened”.

She said the wider Portglenone community had been left angry by the monastery being targeted.

The court heard Hyndman had 193 previous offences including 43 for burglary.

A defence lawyer said the defendant was contesting all charges.

She said several monks were unable to identify the defendant and nor was he identified on CCTV.

District Judge Nigel Broderick refused bail and remanded the defendant in continuing custody and the case was adjourned to May.

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