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Byron Shire
December 2, 2021

Man involved in 200km pursuit that ended in river pleads not guilty

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A man involved in a 200km pursuit with police last December that ended following his arrest after swimming in the Richmond River at Ballina has pleaded not guilty to six charges.

David Michael Bell appeared in Lismore Local Court on Monday and represented himself when he appeared from prison via videolink.

The 37-year-old Queenslander faced two count of not stopping during a police pursuit, two counts of driving recklessly furiously or in a manner dangerous and two counts of driving while suspended.

A pursuit was initiated when David Michael Bell drove from a random breath test site at Macksville on Sunday, December 11, 2016, and allegedly pointed a gun at officers.

At Valla, about 35km south of Coffs Harbour, Mr Bell eventually evaded officers by allegedly ramming a State Forestry gate in his van and escaping into bushland.

Investigations by police found Mr Bell, 37, from Queensland, was wanted in both his home state and South Australia.

Then on December 30, police spotted the van, containing two men, shortly before 1am at Woodburn and a pursuit was initiated.

Police allege allege Mr Bell drove at high speed to Lismore via Wyrallah Road, then onto the Bruxner Highway before turning onto Wardell Road at Alstonville and continuing to Wardell, about 12km south of Ballina.

At the South Ballina ferry terminal the van was driven into the river and two men were seen swimming away.

The Queensland airwing, PolAir, joined local police in searching for the men, and about 2.15am officers in a boat arrested Mr Bell, 37 and a 24-year-old man.

They were taken to Lismore police station where Mr Bell was charged with nine offences including attempting to discharge a firearm with intent to resist arrest, using an offensive weapon to prevent lawful apprehension, police pursuit, driving while suspended and using false documents.

Mr Bell and his accomplice were both refused bail.

The van was towed from the Richmond River and was sent to be forensically examined.

The court has previously heard police allege Mr Bell had $500,000 of stolen cigarettes in his possession before his arrest, which may have been dumped at Tabbimoble.

On Monday Mr Bell entered pleas of not guilty to all charges.

Magistrate David Heilpern adjourned his matters until October 6, for hearing.

As he did not apply for bail, Mr Bell remains in custody until his next court appearance.

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