A man arrested by police investigating the murder of ex-IRA member Kevin McGuigan twice tried to escape with a loaded gun, the High Court heard on Tuesday.
Prosecutors claimed Patrick Fitzpatrick attempted to flee through a back door and a bedroom window as officers arrived at his west Belfast home last month.
It was also claimed that suspected traces of a component of Semtex were found on gloves in the boot of a car allegedly linked to the 53-year-old.
Mr Fitzpatrick, of Lagmore Dale in the city, is charged with possessing a Glock pistol with intent to endanger life. He was detained as part of inquiries into the killing of Mr McGuigan.
The 53-year-old murder victim was shot outside his home at Comber Court in the Short Strand area of east Belfast on August 12th.
As Mr Fitzpatrick applied for bail it was stressed he was not charged with any offences connected to the shooting.
But prosecution counsel claimed when police arrived at his house on August 18th he made two escape bids while carrying a holster.
Officers forced entry and arrested him in a downstairs bedroom with the fully-loaded Glock semi-automatic pistol, the court heard.
The gun, said to have had its markings removed, has not been linked to the killing.
During interviews, Mr Fitzpatrick provided a statement accepting possession of the weapon but claimed he could say nothing more due to concerns for his family’s safety.
He stated he had nothing to do with Mr McGuigan’s murder, the prosecution lawyer said. She added that searches of a car connected to Mr Fitzpatrick resulted in the suspected Semtex traces being found on a pair of gloves.
DNA recovered allegedly matches that of the accused.
Although police have prepared a report in connection with the find on the gloves, no charges have been brought.
Opposing bail, the prosecutor claimed there was a risk of flight.
“He had armed himself with a loaded gun and made an attempt to escape twice, both through a back door and through a window,” she said.
Setting out further objections, she added: “There are real concerns in this case for the safety of the public should this man be released, and also for his own safety.”
Frank O’Donoghue QC, defending, told the court Mr Fitzpatrick was among 16 people arrested, questioned and released without being charged over Mr McGuigan’s murder. “There’s no evidence to connect my client to that killing,” he said.
According to Mr O’Donoghue, the accused was himself the victim of a terrorist attack in 1988 and is now partially blinded.
He argued that any attempt to escape was a “frantic” and momentary attempt to dispose of the gun.
Pressed by the judge about why Mr Fitzpatrick needed the weapon, Mr O’Donoghue replied: “He has given his explanation that it was to protect himself and his family against a perceived threat.”
Adjourning the bail application, Mr Justice Burgess said he wanted time to consider the issue of having a loaded pistol to deal with any threat.
He emphasised: “I’m thinking about it in the context of not having anything to do with the murder of Mr McGuigan, that can’t be repeated enough.
“Given it was the background, there’s absolutely no suggestion of that whatsoever.”