A WOMAN whose husband was allegedly being blackmailed by the INLA followed three suspects and directed police to their location using her mobile phone, Newry Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday.
All three men are charged with membership of the INLA, blackmail and threats to kill. Two of the accused have terrorist histories while a third has a record of serious and violent crime.
The three Belfast men are Damian Justin Morgan, 43, of Vicinage Park; Michael Lawrence Smith, 33, of Ardmonagh Gardens; and 54-year-old Patrick McCrory, of Mountpottinger Road.
All three pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Police said that two men, believed to be Morgan and McCrory, approached the wife of the alleged victim on April 21 in the Newry and Mourne area and asked for her husband, whom she said was in the city shopping. They handed her a piece of paper with a mobile number and the name Kevin on it, and told her to have her husband make contact.
“Then they walked off. She thought it suspicious because they had Belfast accents,” a detective constable said.
Just then, her husband arrived back and they allegedly demanded £35,000 from him. Police said they gave him a deadline for the next evening and said “he would be shot dead if he did not pay”.
The man’s wife then jumped in her car and found the same two men in a car with another man, it was claimed.
“She followed them and flashed her lights, demanding that they stop. Then she told them that she never wanted to hear from them again,” the detective constable said.
Police said the driver, whom they believed to be McCrory, swore at her and drove off. But she followed them and used her mobile phone to direct police to their exact location as they drove through Newry.
The detective constable said the three men were arrested and later interviewed with their legal representatives. They made no reply to any questions except to confirm their personal details, he said.
Searches were then made of their homes and in Smith’s they found “a vast amount” of mobile phones, computers and a coat with £4,000 in cash in it, which Smith said belonged to him and his partner.
A lawyer from Madden and Finucane, acting for Morgan, argued that police had no actual evidence against his client.
He said that although they had a statement from the wife of the injured party, she had not heard any threat herself, which police confirmed.
The solicitor pressed police on why they had no written statement from her husband, but police said they had been busy and that the witness was in a secure location. He had given a verbal statement and promised he would give a written one, the PSNI added.
Police said Morgan was freed from HMP Maghaberry on licence for conspiracy to murder in May 2000, a conviction which had been upheld on appeal in 1995; Smith had a litany of “small offences” including hijacking, two robberies, one serious assault and eight assaults on police, a police constable said. And in 1979, McCrory had been convicted of membership of a proscribed organisation and firearms offences.
All three requested bail. Police said they feared the men would interfere with witnesses or abscond. Bail was refused. All three were remanded to appear before the court again on May 9.