Northern Ireland

Jail for two men in 'UVF' blackmail plot

A former Church of Ireland warden has received a five year sentence for his role in a blackmail plot.

William Ian Robinson, 38, of Beechwood Drive, Ballymoney was one of three people who intimidated victims into thinking they were under threat from the UVF.

He admitted charges that included blackmail and making false bomb threats.

David Andrew Kealey of Burnside Park in Coleraine was also jailed.

Kealey, 35, who admitted blackmail and aiding and abetting intimidation, was also sentenced to five years. Both men will serve half their sentence in jail, half on licence.

Theresa Karina Letters, 36, of Castle Place, the Heights, also in Coleraine, received an 18-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to aiding and abetting blackmail.

The judge said he would "temper justice with mercy" in giving Letters a suspended sentence, so that her child, who was fathered by Kealey, would not lose both parents to custody at the same time.

Demanding

Antrim Crown Court heard that in November 2013, calls were made to the Samaritans naming a number of men in Ballymoney and claiming they were under threat from the UVF for involvement in drugs.

One of the named victims was contacted directly and told he would have to pay £6,000 or he and family members would be attacked.

Calls and texts were made from phones linked to Robinson.

After more calls making threats and demanding money, an initial payment of £500 was made on Christmas Eve in 2013.

This was followed by a proposed handover of £4,000 on 16 January 2014 at a car park beside retail premises in Cloughmills.

The victim, a Ballymoney businessman, arrived in his car and was met by Kealey who took the money from him.

But police had been made aware of the threats and arrested Kealey at the scene.

His girlfriend, Letters, was arrested in a car a short distance away and a phone used to contact the victim was found in her vehicle.

Robinson was arrested a short time later in Ballymoney.

Det Insp Tom McClure, of the PSNI's reactive and organised crime branch, said: "This was a particularly nasty series of offences which caused considerable fear and distress to innocent people over a sustained period of time."