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Men get High Court bail in 'blackmail' case

The High Court

AN alleged blackmail victim was escorted into a bank after being informed of a £10,000 "bounty on his head", the High Court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors claimed the man was threatened with being shot and his elderly parents tied up if the money wasn't paid.

Two men accused of the extortion plot were arrested after armed police arrived at the scene in Ballyclare, Co Antrim last week.

David Murphy, a 51-year-old cattle and sheep farmer from Church Road in Moorfields outside Ballymena, and Mark Hall (27) of Rodney Drive in Belfast, are jointly charged with blackmail and threats to kill.

Crown lawyer Conor Maguire claimed Murphy told the alleged victim in a phone conversation on March 16 that he "good news" for him which could only be discussed face to face.

The complainant, who was said to have previously dealt with the farmer at livestock markets, agreed to meet at a yard in Ballyclare later that day, the court heard.

Mr Maguire alleged Murphy arrived with an accomplice and informed the victim "there was a £10,000 bounty on his head".

The barrister further claimed: "He threatened to shoot the injured party if the money was not handed over... and also threatened to tie up the injured party's mother and father in order to get the money."

According to the prosecution Murphy accompanied him into an Ulster Bank in Ballyclare, waiting in the main area while the man went in to see the branch manager. Police were alerted at that stage.

An armed response unit then arrived, arresting both Murphy and Hall - who was allegedly waiting in a car outside.

Defence counsel Stephen Law, representing Murphy, insisted the charges against his client were denied.

Counsel for Hall contended that even less evidence connects him to the alleged offences.

Granting bail to both defendants, Mrs Justice Keegan also ordered them to have no contact with each other.

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