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Man with 190 previous convictions said he was ‘taking long way home to avoid paramilitaries’

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A MAN with 190 previous convictions who had a balaclava, gloves and a torch when spotted by police in the early hours near premises in Kilrea told officers he was “taking the long way home” to avoid being seen by “paramilitaries”.

Gareth Hyndman (43), of Coleraine Street in Kilrea, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates Court charged with ‘going equipped for burglary’.

The full charge accuses him of having articles, ‘namely a pair of rubber gloves, a torch and an adapted balaclava safety-pinned to hide the face for use in the course of or in connection with any burglary or theft’.

The court was told he was released on bail at the High Court in Belfast on Monday September 23.

He had been held on remand for several months accused of a series of middle-of-the-night break-ins at Our Lady of Bethlehem Abbey monastery in Portglenone.

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

At Ballymena Court a police officer objected to bail saying that at 12.40am on Thursday September 26 a PSNI patrol spotted Hyndman wearing dark clothing in a darkened area at the rear of commercial premises close to a church in Kilrea.

The defendant told police he was on his way home after being to a cash machine but officers said he was walking in the opposite direction from his address.

Hyndman told police he was taking the “long way home as he was afraid of being spotted in the town centre by paramilitaries for fear of what they would do to him”.

Police discovered he was carrying a black balaclava, orange coloured latex gloves and a torch.

The ‘letterbox’ balaclava had been modified with two safety pins to reduce the opening.

He had no money on him and said his cash must not have entered his account.

The officer said during a subsequent police interview Hyndman said he “forgot” the gloves were in his jacket and half way to the bank machine he realised he had a balaclava in his jacket but that he had initially said he had it in case of rain.

Hyndman told police the torch was to assist in going through a golf course and fields to get to his home.

The officer said that of the 190 convictions 43 were for burglary; 18 were for going equipped and there were 31 for theft.

The officer said the defendant came to police attention within a few days of getting High Court bail and he had 16 breaches of court orders.

A defence lawyer said Hyndman was not in breach of bail conditions which had only barred him from entering Portglenone and the defendant had given an explanation that he had been at a relative’s house earlier in the evening.

The lawyer said the alleged monastery offences “caused a rift” and a family member was not speaking to Hyndman because of the nature of the allegations.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said bail had been granted at the High Court because of the length of time the monastery case was taking.

Judge Broderick said the defendant had an “appalling record” but that he had been in custody for almost six months on remand.

He said Hyndman could be released on £500 bail with an 8pm-8am curfew when he will be electronically tagged and the case was adjourned to Coleraine Magistrates Court on October 21.

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