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Man accused of allegedly taking car from gas station forecourt

A man has been charged with a traffic offense after allegedly driving a stranger’s car away from a petrol station after a terrified 10-year-old passenger fled.

Atrick McGurk, 33, from west Belfast, appeared at Laganside Magistrates Court on Saturday charged with taking a motor vehicle without consent in the high-profile incident that happened earlier this month.

The court heard a man drove his Seat Leon to the Spar garage on Tates Avenue in south Belfast and left his 10-year-old daughter in the car with the key in the ignition when he went inside.

Prosecutors allege McGurk then climbed into the gray seat and attempted to drive it away before realizing there was a child in the passenger seat and exiting the vehicle.

The court was told that the frightened child then got out of the car and ran to the gas station to find her father. It is alleged McGurk then returned to the vehicle and drove it away.

The Seat Leon was later recovered in central Belfast.

Defense attorney Luke Curran successfully applied for bail on behalf of his client, but McGurk was held in custody pending an appeal from prosecutors and police approval of a bail address.

During legal battles over McGurk’s bail, police told the court they were concerned for his safety because of a “credible” threat about the alleged crime.

The incident made headlines on January 12 after car owner Colin Ashwood, who works at Spar garage, released CCTV footage of the incident.

Mr Ashwood described how his young daughter was traumatized when a man got into his vehicle while she was in the passenger seat.

He said: “I had parked the car and left the keys in it. She sat and listened to the radio.

“I filled up the car and went into the store and was at the register and she came running squeaking and said, ‘Dad, Daddy – someone’s stealing the car.

“When I got out to the car, he had sped away. It’s just how he walks to the car, gets in, and then sees my daughter in the passenger seat before jumping out and running.

“But then he comes back. In my mind he came to get the car whether she was there or not.

“My daughter came in shaking and squeaking and crying.”

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