Northern Ireland

Armagh man 'threatened Stewart murder witness'

Victor Stewart
Image caption Mr Stewart was found murdered at his house in Middletown in County Armagh

A man charged in connection with a farmer's murder threatened to cut a key prosecution witness into pieces the High Court heard on Friday.

Peter Maloney allegedly warned the woman of the consequences if she did not meet him during a secretly recorded telephone conversation, prosecutors said.

The 49-year-old, of Drumarg Villas, Armagh, denies charges of perverting the course of justice and withholding information over the killing of Victor Stewart in October 2008.

His son, Peter Joseph Maloney, 23, of Drumarg Park, Armagh has been charged with the murder and stealing a safe from the victim's property.

Mr Stewart, 45, was beaten to death at his isolated farmhouse in Middletown.

Mr Maloney snr was granted bail on Friday on conditions that he lodge a £10,000 cash surety and make no attempt to locate the witness.

It emerged during the hearing that he met with the woman at a Sainsbury's supermarket last November.

A Crown lawyer claimed a number of veiled threats were made to her during the encounter, which was covertly recorded by police.

It was alleged that Mr Maloney warned the woman he could get a photograph of her and use it to track her down.

Defence counsel Kevin Magill claimed the exchange was taken out of context, and that other comments by his client were more ambiguous than suggested by the prosecution.

"I have read the transcript twice and struggle to see anywhere in the transcript where he says anything that could be taken to indicate that he had knowledge of who did it (the murder)," he said.


Mr Magill contended that Mr Maloney only offered "fireside legal advice" to the woman about what she should do if she had any knowledge about who was responsible.

"The case is based solely on the transcript of that conversation with this lady who admits in the body of the conversation that she is drunk."

The barrister described Mr Maloney as an entrepreneur whose family had donated some land to their local GAA club in Edenderry.

However, the prosecution revealed the alleged contents of a phone conversation between the pair earlier the same day about the meeting.

The woman repeatedly promised that she would turn up, the court heard.

According to the Crown lawyer Mr Maloney replied: "See if you don't, I will cut you up in bits and post you to all the different corners of the world."

She was then said to have responded by telling him: "I know you would, like."

The judge hearing the application described the alleged threat as "blood-curdling".

Mr Justice McLaughlin acknowledged there was a basis for the prosecution fears of potential interference with the witness if Mr Maloney was released.

But he held that the risk could be managed, pointing out that the accused did not know her current whereabouts.

"This lady is entitled to lead her life free from any sense of threat or any concern for her own well-being," the judge said.

As part of tight bail conditions imposed, Mr Maloney was also banned from leaving the city of Armagh, prohibited from contacting the witness, and ordered to report to police daily.

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