Man charged with robbing two bookies shops in Derry

Derry Magistrates Court
A 34 year old man has appeared at Derry Magistrate’s Court charged with the armed robbery of two bookmakers premises in the city earlier this week.
Daren Sweeney, whose address was given as 11, Greenwalk in the city was charged with robbing McLean’s bookmakers on the Strand Road of £360.
He is also charged with robbing another premises of the same firm in Foyle Street of £1,100 both offences were alleged to have taken place on January 15.
Sweeney also faced two charges of possessing firearms or imitation firearms with intent to commit an offence again on January 15.
A police officer said he believed he could connect Sweeney to the charges and opposed bail, saying they feared Sweeney could commit further offences.
He told the court that at 6.25 p.m. on January 15 police received a 999 call from the premises on Strand Road who reported that they had been robbed at gunpoint. Staff told police that a man had entered the premises with his face covered in a scarf carrying what looked like a shotgun and demanded money.
He gave staff a white bag and told them to put notes and coins into it.
A number of witnesses reported seeing a Black Astra car outside the premises.
While police were there they received a call about a robbery at premises in Foyle Street. Staff there told police that a lone male had entered carrying a long barrelled weapon and demanded money from the safe.
When told the safe was empty he handed a white bag containing some notes and coins to them and told them to fill it from the till.
A member of staff who had been close to the door when the armed man entered ran next door and phoned 999.
He reported that he had seen a Black Astra nearby and that it had gone after the assailant had left.
Police traced the owner of the Astra and went to an address in Bishop Street where they arrested Sweeney who had a key to the car in his pocket.
Police also discovered that earlier on that date staff at a business premises had identified Sweeney and his car as being involved in what may have been a potential break in.
Staff at shops close to where Sweeney lived told police that he had come in and changed bank bags containing pound coins for notes in both premises. CCTV footage also revealed the Black Astra close to the premises in Foyle Street.
The officer said Police inquiries also revealed that Sweeney had lost £670 at a McLean’s bookmakers that afternoon and they believe this was a ‘desperate attempt’ to feed his gambling problem.
The officer added that on the evening of his arrest, custody officers had overheard the defendant phoning his wife to tell her there was a sum of money in the house and they recovered a sum of money.
Defence counsel argued that there was no real evidence to suggest Sweeney would commit further offences. District Judge Barney McElholm said the evidence pointed to a ‘spree of offences’ suggesting a person who was ‘out of control.’
He said he was concerned with interference in the investigation, adding there was a fear in the community, and people have a right to be protected from this type of offending.
He remanded Sweeney in custody to appear again on February 13.