Ahoghill man on £25,000 blackmail and drugs charges

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An Ahoghill man facing charges over a £25,000 ‘blackmail plot’ over a ‘missing drugs stash’ has been refused bail.

A court heard that the case - termed as ‘bizarre’ - involved threats being issued. Mark Bamber (30), from Cullybackey Road in Ahoghill denies charges of blackmail, assault and possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

It was stated that police were contacted by the alleged victim of the plot who claimed his life had been threatened by men declaring themselves to be from the UDA.

The court was told the man had said he was being paid £800 a month to store drugs brought to his house in suitcases and bin bags.

It was claimed that he came home on April 15 to find Bamber and another man in the property. They allegedly told him the drugs were gone and he had 24 hours to either produce them or pay £25,000.

Conor Gillespie, prosecuting, said: “They were aggressive and threatened to cut his ear off.”

He claimed menacing texts were also sent to him, including one stating: “I will kill if my s*** is not back.”

The High Court heard how two plain-clothes detectives took him to the arranged safe house in Larne which had been offered by Father Pat Buckley.

But the prosecution said as they arrived just after midnight Bamber and two other men appeared and said they wanted to speak to the alleged victim.

Mr Gillespie said police instead took him to a different ‘place of safety’ and had detained the accused four days later.

The barrister said no arrests had been made during the original Larne incident as officers had not been armed.

Opposing bail, he revealed how the controversial cleric was to have supplied the planned safe house.

“(Bamber) showed Pat Buckley his phone and some sort of tracking device that he was able to track the movements of the injured party’s car,” Mr Gillespie said.

He also disclosed details of a suspected attack at the home of the man’s civil partner.

Windows were smashed, radiators ripped off walls, the attic was ransacked and a laptop computer stolen, the court heard.

During police questioning Bamber claimed he only brought clothes to be washed and ironed at the alleged victim’s home because his wife refused to do his laundry.

The second-hand car dealer also said he had been searching for £5,000 from a car sale, which had been stored at the complainant’s property to stop his wife using it for home improvements.

Stressing that the offences are denied, a defence lawyer said: “Pat Buckley is going to allege this applicant told him they had some type of tracing device on a phone which allowed them to arrive at his door. It does seem to be a totally bizarre state of affairs.”

Lord Justice Coghlin refused bail.