Five Lithuanian men, who were arrested as part of a police investigation into a gang rape and serious assault in Lurgan, were allegedly vigilantes hunting for those behind the incident.
The men appeared at court in Lisburn on Saturday jointly charged with conspiring to inflict grievous bodily harm on persons unknown, and of having a lead-wrapped wooden bat, a knife and a metal bar at the Tandragee Road, Portadown, on Thursday.
It comes after a 26-year-old woman and 23-year-old man were held hostage in a flat in Lurgan and endured a nightmare ordeal over a prolonged period – from the early hours of Wednesday into the evening – amid allegations that the woman was repeatedly raped while the man’s condition in hospital is described as critical.
The five accused, 27-year-old Deividas Miskinis, Dainius Ulevicius (24), 19-year-old Vytautas Petryia, Aurimus Kliavga (25), all from Portadown and 21-year-old Donatas Endrikaitis from Craigavon were all arrested in a car at around 10.30pm.
A detective constable told the court she believed she could connect each of the men to the charges and in objecting to bail applications, said police feared that if released they would commit further offences and interfere with the investigation into a rape and physical assault which happened on 13 July.
On Saturday the officer confirmed that two of the men had been assisting the police investigation into that incident and had provided names, address and telephone numbers of two suspects.
However, she said that within hours of that information being passed to police, officers on mobile patrol spoke to Miskinis who was driving the car and told them “they were going to get the men” who committed the assaults.
When the car was searched, the police uncovered the weapons with the officer telling the court “police believe that the defendants were going to take justice into their own hands” adding that police also feared they would abscond back to Lithuania if released.
Solicitor Andrew Russell from Madden and Finucane submitted that all of the men had family ties and jobs in the Portadown area, had clear criminal records and were in fact intent on assisting the police investigation.
“They had decided to travel around the area and should it be the case that they saw any of the individuals or of any information came to light about their whereabouts, that information would have been provided to the police or they would have held them [until police arrived],” said the lawyer adding that the comment ‘going to get them’ could be interpreted in different ways.
In granting bail, District Judge Alan White said that in his view it was a “highly unusual case” and that the “whole enterprise, from the information I have been given, strikes me as an ill thought-out, spur of the moment reaction to what had happened”.
Subject to their addresses being approved by police, he granted the men bail on their own bail of £500 with a surety of £750 , ordered them to surrender their passports, not to associate with each other and imposed a curfew from 10pm to 5am.
“I want the warning to be absolutely clear,” declared the judge, “if there’s any breach of the bail conditions that I have imposed I will keep anyone breaching them in custody until this matter is dealt with.”