Teenager’s alleged car wash blackmail bid ‘just a prank’

Court
Court

A teenager accused of trying to blackmail the owner of a Belfast car wash was just making prank calls, a court has heard.

Reece Leeman allegedly threatened to kill the businessman and damage his property unless protection money was paid.

The 19-year-old, of Carolhill Park in Belfast, was arrested on Tuesday by detectives from a PSNI unit set up to probe paramilitary activity.

He was granted bail on conditions which include a ban on entering the city, and having a mobile phone or computer.

Leeman appeared before Belfast Magistrates’ Court charged with making threats to kill, threatening to cause criminal damage endangering life, and demanding protection money with menaces.

The alleged offences relate to phone calls made last month.

It was stressed, however, that Leeman has no connection to any paramilitary grouping.

Defence counsel John O’Connor said there had been a dispute with the car wash operator, named only as Witness A, over alleged damage to a vehicle linked to the accused.

Pointing to his client’s clear record and age, the lawyer argued that the incident involved prank calls.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall was also told police still have to examine other phone contact as part of the ongoing investigation.

Granting bail, she ordered Leeman to live at an address outside Belfast.

He is to appear again in court next month.