PICTURE : MARK JAMIESON
A MAN has appeared in court charged in connection with the theft of a parrot called ‘Barney’.
Darren McPeake (32), from Lanntara in Ballymena, is accused of dishonestly receiving stolen goods including Barney the parrot, six tortoises, a chameleon, one python and five birds.
He is alleged to have committed the offence on a date unknown between December 2 and December 8 last year. The defendant is also charged with possessing Class B cannabis and Class C Diazepam on December 7 last year.
The theft of the animals was given a high-profile on media outlets in the run up to Christmas and as appeals went out for information regarding the whereabouts of Barney. The animals belonged to Marion McAuley from Ladysmith Pet Supplies in Ballymena.
‘Barney’ – an African Grey parrot – was the shop’s official ‘pet’ and was not for sale.
Last December, Marion McAuley told the media of her devastation at the theft of Barney and the other animals. She said Barney had felt so at home at the pet shop in Ballymena’s Harryville area he often hitched a ride round the store on the shoulders of staff. In December she told the press: “The shop has been in business for 13 and a half years and we have had Barney for ten years. He is part of the furniture here and is our pet and was never for sale.
“He often would have sat on my shoulder but now his cage lies empty,” said Mrs McAuley. She said Barney was a favourite with customers and his ‘chit-chat’ was legendary in the shop. Added Mrs McAuley: “Barney would have repeated things you said so when the phone rang in the shop he would say ‘hello’ and if somebody said ‘by’ going out the shop he would repeat that too. He is a bit of a character and we miss him and want him back”.
She had appealed for the public’s help in getting ‘Barney’ and the other animals back and within a few days the pilfered parrot and the other exotic animals were found by police and returned to Marion. The PSNI said at the time that “with the help of the local community” it had been able to get all of the pets handed back to Ladysmith Pet Supplies, saying Barney was “safe and well”. McPeake was originally due to appear at Ballymena Magistrates Court last week on the ‘receiving’ charge but when he did not appear an arrest warrant was issued.
This Thursday’s court heard a police officer say McPeake had now been arrested on foot of the warrant. Defence solicitor Stewart Ballentine said following last week’s non-appearance he had written to McPeake urging him to come to court and the defendant had taken his advice and done so this week. Mr Ballentine said his client was then formally arrested by police at 10.05am.
The case was adjourned until mid-April and McPeake was released on £750 bail with a condition banning him from entering Ladysmith Pet Supplies.
District Judge Peter King advised the defendant to stay in touch with his solicitor.