A man found lying next to a pipe bomb in east Belfast claims he was kidnapped and handed over the device for a £5,000 drug debt, a court heard today.

Hieron Smithson was arrested amid a security alert that prompted families to evacuate their homes on Dandela Street in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

A 24-year-old man from nearby Cansbrook Avenue appeared at Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with possession of explosives in suspicious circumstances.

He is also charged with criminal damage and attempted criminal damage to two vehicles in connection with the same incident.

The court was told that police were sent to Dundela Street just after 5am on October 25 when residents were woken up by loud noises and laughter.

One woman allegedly identified Smithson kicking the car, while another resident claimed the same man threw an object at a van parked nearby.

He then walked down the street with the object and sat on a windowsill before dropping to the ground, witnesses said.

Minutes later, police found Smithson lying outside the property.

The investigating detective said: “They noticed a pipe bomb style device next to him. It was tested and found to contain explosive compounds.”

The device was described as 12 inches long, with a fuse and wrapped in masking tape.

“This led to a significant security scare and several people were evacuated from their homes,” added the detective.

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Police on alert in Dundela Street area of ​​east Belfast (pacemaker)

During police interrogations, the accused claimed that he had been abducted by four men in a car last night.

“He stated they took him to a sports ground where he was assaulted and threatened for failing to pay a £5,000 drug debt,” the detective said.

“He refused to name these persons, saying that he was afraid for his safety.

“He stated that after the attack the gang took him back to the Cansbrook Avenue area where they handed him an object wrapped in masking tape.”

Smithson claimed he had little recollection of the events that followed due to his drinking earlier that night, but denied knowing what he was allegedly given.

The accused, who hails from England, was found to have no known paramilitary connections.

Defense lawyer Emanuel Morgan argued that Smithson had given a full explanation in the interview.

“This is a very strange incident and my client would not have had the means or the intelligence to build such a device,” Mr Morgan said.

“He was very drunk; his case is that he was simply handed this device.’

In refusing bail, District Judge Mark McGarity found there was a risk of re-offending.

Mr McGarity noted: “He is believed to be… in possession of a bomb.

“The circumstances of possession in his case are unusual and cause me concern.”

Smithson was remanded in custody to appear in court again on November 23.