A 25-year-old pregnant mother-of-two has been cleared of the murder of Coleraine pensioner Bertie Acheson in April 2012, after the prosecution offered no evidence against her.

Jennifer Toland, originally from Antrim, had been expected to go on trial at Belfast Crown Court.

However, on Monday, prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy told Mr Justice Weir that they were “offering no evidence” on any of the two charges against her.

The defendant had been accused of murdering the 72-year-old victim and robbing his disabled wife.

Following the prosecution’s concession, defence QC Martin O’Rourke asked that a jury be sworn and that Toland be formally acquitted.

A jury of nine women and three men were duly sworn and then directed by Mr Justice Weir that, since no evidence was being offered, they should find Toland not guilty of both charges.

Last month, a murder charge was dropped against Toland’s estranged husband Paul James Manolito Toland, also originally of Antrim, when he pleaded guilty to Mr Acheson’s manslaughter and taking £335 from the purse of the victim’s disabled wife.

He is currently in custody and is expected to be sentenced early next month.

Following her acquittal, and in a statement issued through her solicitors Madden and Finucane, his estranged wife thanked the jury, and said she was “grateful that the ordeal of this court case is concluded with her good character intact and the allegations against her finally dismissed”.

The statement also read that the “complex prosecution case” against her had involved “DNA evidence which we were able to successfully challenge”.

While Mr Acheson’s daughter Sandra, supported by her husband and a few friends, had been in court for Paul Toland’s manslaughter plea, they were not present in court for his wife’s acquittal.

Previous hearings were told by police that Mr Acheson and his wife Sheila were woken up on the night in question by the sound of breaking glass.

Mrs Acheson was said to have later told police that she overheard a verbal altercation between her husband and an intruder, during which money was demanded.

She was further said to have heard the sound of a scuffle and gasping for breath, but when she managed to raise the alarm and emergency services arrived, her husband was already dead.

UTV News

See also: Press Statement regarding Murder of Coleraine Pensioner Bertie Acheson