Appearing by video-link at Ballymena Magistrates’ Court, 31-year-old Mark David Hayes was charged with two drug offences alleged to have been committed on August 25, including possessing pregabalin with intent to supply and with supplying the class C prescription only drug.
While Hayes, from Maple Drive in Coleraine, confirmed that he understood the charges a PSNI detective constable told the court he believed he could connect him to the offences, adding that police were objecting to bail due to fears concerning further offences and witness interference.
The officer outlined how there was a “sudden death” at the Lighthouse Hostel in Ballymena on Friday where a man was found sadly passed away in his room, a box of pregabalin lying beside him.
The post-mortem results came back as “inconclusive” and police are awaiting a full toxicology report, said the officer.
A witness came forward to claim they knew Hayes had been taking drugs with the deceased the day before his death, and that the deceased “complained to him that he gave the defendant £70 to buy pregabalin” but he had not got any from him, and also that on the day he was found dead, the witness saw Hayes give the deceased a box of pregabalin.
When Hayes’ room at the hostel was searched, “we found a sheet of pregabalin and it appears to be the same brand as the box that was found in the deceased’s room,” said the officer.
He added that £145 cash along with a list of names and numbers was also seized, revealing that the name of the deceased was on that list which police suspect are dealing figures.
Arrested and interviewed Hayes denied that he is a drug dealer, claiming that the list was of people he had lent money to, and although he accepted going to Belfast to buy pregabalin on Thursday and Friday, he denied giving any to the dead man.
According to the detective, Hayes told police the tablets he bought were different to the usual prescription drugs as the blister pack tinfoil was gold rather than silver.
Objecting to bail, DC Robinson said Hayes was aware of the name of the witness so there was a fear of witness interference and also that despite conceding in interviews that the “is aware of this bad batch going around Belfast … we believe that he will continue to deal drugs knowing that these drugs are fatal and he just doesn’t care”.
Defence counsel Michael Smyth argued there is nothing on Hayes’ record to suggest the he would interfere with the witness and also that there could be significant delays in the case given the ongoing police and forensic investigations into the unfortunate death.
He submitted that with a proposed bail address with his father in Coleraine, conditions could be put in place to keep him away from the witness and out of Ballymena.
District Judge Nigel Broderick said the case is “particularly serious in that it involves the sad demise” of the man who police suspect died as a result of drugs and further that “the drugs were supplied by this defendant”.
He said while he had concerns about the circumstances of the case, “on balance I will grant him bail albeit with stringent conditions”.
Freeing Hayes on his own bail of £500 with a surety of £500, the judge ordered him to live with his father, observe a curfew, stay out of Ballymena and have no contact with the witness or hostel staff.
The case was adjourned to September 21.