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Meigh raid: two charged

July 6, 2010


By Brónagh Murphy

A man and a teenager appeared in Newry Magistrates Court on Thursday charged in connection with the seizure of more than eight million illegal cigarettes which were recovered in an anti-smuggling operation in Meigh last week.

James Francis McDonnell, 38, of Ferryhill Road, Killean and a seventeen-year-old unnamed youth were remanded in custody accused of withholding information, concealing criminal property and evasion of customs duty.

The pair were arrested when police and customs officials swooped on a warehouse on the Low Road in the village on Tuesday afternoon.

A PSNI officer remains seriously ill after he and a colleague were struck by a lorry which smashed through the roller door of the warehouse as its driver fled the area during the search operation.  Both casualties were air-lifted to Daisy Hill Hospital.  The most seriously injured officer was transferred to a Belfast hospital where he underwent emergency surgery for extensive injuries to his upper body.  His condition remains serious but stable.  The second officer was discharged a few hours later.

The lorry sped off but was located on its side just across the border at Dromad.  It’s believed the vehicle overturned when the driver lost control while attempting to enter a yard at speed.

Police on both sides of the border are continuing to search for the driver.

It emerged the smuggled cargo had recently entered Dublin Port from China and was being watched as it made its way to Dundalk before being taken across the border to Meigh.

The two accused were refused bail and will reappear before the court via videolink on July 28.

Condemnation

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley condemned the incident and said: “Gangsters who seek to control our community for greed and who pursue their ill-gotten profits by knocking down our police officers deserve the full weight of the law. These people will be quite prepared to do the same to anyone else who gets in their road, so anyone who saw them or can help in any way should contact the police without delay.”

Sinn Féin MP for Newry Armagh, Conor Murphy MLA, voiced his condemnation and said his thoughts are with those injured.

Mr Murphy said he expects a full investigation to reveal more information about the incident and welcomed the fact that a significant amount of illegal cigarettes had been seized.


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