Blackmail victim told he would ‘get a bullet in the face’ if he didn’t pay £5,000

Court

Court

An alleged blackmail victim was told he would get “a bullet in the face” if he didn’t pay £5,000, the High Court heard on Friday.

The man also received phone calls threatening to burn his house down unless the cash was delivered to a west Belfast location, prosecutors said.

Details emerged as bail was granted to one of two men accused of involvement in the plot.

Pierce Hardy, 23, of Harris Crescent in Dunmurry, is charged with carrying out the blackmail during February and March this year.

Prosecution counsel David Russell said the victim, referred to as Witness A, alerted police to phone calls threatening him and his family.

“They demanded money or a bullet would be put in his face,” the barrister claimed.

The caller told Witness A he knew where he lived and the ages of his two children, the court heard.

Mr Russell said: “Further details were revealed (in the calls) about the victim’s family, and the information was accurate.

“The demand was for payment of £5,000, and backed up with threats about being shot and also a threat his house would be burnt down.”

One call was made as Witness A was in a PSNI station reporting the incident, with officers able to listen to the demand on a loud speaker.

Hardy is allegedly linked to the plot by a phone found on him when he was stopped by police on March 11.

The court also heard a separate call to the victim from another mobile was made by a man stating he was “The boss”.

According to the prosecution that caller was Hardy’s father and co-accused.

Recordings of some of the phone conversations were captured by police.

Opposing bail, Mr Russell argued that Witness A had faced a serious and sinister threat.

Pierce Hardy’s barrister, Mark Farrell, confirmed the blackmail charge was denied.

Basing his application on delay in the case, Mr Farrell claimed it was not the gravest offence of its kind.

“It’s not paramilitary (blackmail), it’s not organised crime,” he insisted.

“At it’s height, on the prosecution case, it appears to be a father and son team.”

Granting bail, Mr Justice Colton said his decision was due to delays which meant any trial is unlikely this year.

He ordered Hardy to have no contact with Witness A.