West Belfast: Three in court over alleged security van robbery plot

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Three men have appeared in court charged with plotting to rob a security van in west Belfast on Saturday.

Jason McMillan, 30, Michael McMillan, 27, and Stephen Allen, 23, were detained by the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

Belfast Magistrates' Court heard the arrests followed a three-hour surveillance operation in Northumberland Street.

All three were remanded in custody.

Police told the court they believed the men planned to rob a G4S van making a cash delivery to shops in the area.

Jason McMillan, of Duncairn Parade in the city, was alleged to be the "controlling mind" of the operation, a detective told the court.

He faces a single count of conspiracy to rob.

Michael McMillan, of Carlisle Road, and Stephen Allen, of Glenville Park in Newtownabbey, are jointly charged with conspiracy to rob and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life.

The court heard the pair were allegedly both in a car from which police recovered a loaded gun.

'Sophisticated, well-planned and organised'

The detective said that since December 2020 the paramilitary crime task force has conducted a proactive investigation regarding a number of armed robberies.

Two of these were in Belfast and one in Antrim, they continued, with a total loss of about £210,000.

None of the defendants are charged in connection with the previous raids.

However, the detective alleged the incidents followed a similar modus operandi with the use of multiple cars and fake number plates.

Police said the alleged attempt to rob a van on Saturday was "sophisticated, well-planned and organised".

The judge was told that Mr Allen and Mr McMillan were both found wearing multiple layers of clothing when arrested.

Police said they believe the intention was to remove clothing for burning in the car following the robbery.

The court heard Mr McMillan is connected to the plot through telephone data.

It was claimed that 46 attempted communications were made between the accused from midnight on Friday to Saturday morning.

A solicitor for Jason McMillan challenged the strength of evidence connecting him to the case.

During interviews, Jason McMillan said the communications related to early morning training.

Mr Allen's lawyer said his client denies knowing anything about the gun.

Their applications for bail were refused, with all three remanded in custody to appear in court again in April.