A father and son team of alleged blackmailers have been refused bail amid fears they would interfere with witnesses.
Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Saturday heard claims that the victim, known only as Witness A, was threatened that if he did not hand over £5,000 “a bullet would be put in his face”.
Jointly charged with blackmail by demanding cash “with menaces” on February 29 were 22-year-old Pierce Hardy and his father George Hardy, 55, from Ardcaoin Drive in Dunmurry.
Pierce Hardy, from Harris Crescent, also in Dunmurry, is further charged with possessing class B cannabis and going equipped for theft with a screwdriver on March 11.
Giving evidence to the court, a PSNI officer said he believed he could connect the pair to their respective charges and that police were objecting to bail, describing that “I cannot over emphasise enough the effect this has had on the victim”.
He outlined how Witness A had received numerous phone calls “making threats against him and his family” if he failed to hand over the cash demanded.
The officer revealed that when the victim was in a police station reporting the matter, he received one such threatening call which he put on speaker phone to allow the officers to listen in.
During that call, when Witness A said he did not have £5,000, the demand was lowered to £1,500, and further calls were recorded by the police where the alleged blackmailers warned “we are keeping an eye on you”.
Those calls were allegedly made from a mobile associated with Pierce Hardy, and a call made on March 3, where a man claiming to be “the boss” demanded money with “intimated” threats, had come from a mobile number allegedly associated with George Hardy.
The officer said Pierce Hardy was arrested on Friday following a report of a male acting suspiciously around cars in the College Green area of the city and that when he was searched, officers found a small amount of cannabis and a screwdriver in his pocket.
A mobile phone allegedly used to make a number of the calls was also uncovered on his person, said the officer.
During police interviews Pierce Hardy admitted having the drugs but claimed the screwdriver was for fixing his father’s glasses and denied any knowledge of the blackmail plot.
When it was suggested to him that his mobile had been used in the extortion plot and his voice sounded similar to the voice on the covert recordings, he refused to comment.
George Hardy was also arrested and interviewed and while he initially answered “no comment”, he later confessed to making the calls but claimed it had been “a prank and hadn’t meant it to go so far”.
The court heard the police believed the “only way to prevent fear returning” to the alleged victim was for the father and son to be remanded into custody.
The Hardys will appear again on April 1 via video link.