Couple to go on trial for pensioner murder

Published Thursday, 13 February 2014
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A former husband and wife who had been accused of the manslaughter of Co Londonderry pensioner Bertie Acheson nearly two years ago, has been returned for trial on the more serious charge of murder.

Couple to go on trial for pensioner murder
Paul Toland leaves the court hearing. (© Mark Jamieson)

Following a short preliminary enquiry, Ballymena District Judge Desmond Perry on Thursday ruled that 40-year-old Paul James Manolito Toland, of The Cedars, Antrim, and 24-year-old mum of two, Jennifer Toland had a case to answer.

Watched by Mr Acheson's grieving daughter Sandra, supported by her husband and friends, defence lawyers Aaron Thompson and Johnathan Browne acknowledged "there were no issues", before their clients were returned on continuing bail to appear before Belfast Crown Court next month.

In addition to being charged with the murder of the 72-year-old Coleraine pensioner on 30 April, 2012, the pair were also returned for trial accused of robbing his disabled wife Shelia of a purse containing £335 in cash.

Although no details were given to Ballymena Magistrates' Court, the court had previously heard that DNA, allegedly from Toland, a maintenance engineer, and a father of three, was found on a brick, said to have been used to smash a window in the pensioners' Glenmore Gardens home.

A police officer had also told one hearing that Mr Acheson and his wife Sheila were woken up by the sound of breaking glass in the early hours of the morning. The pensioner went to investigate.

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

The officer said that Mrs Acheson further claimed she also heard the sound of a scuffle and gasping for breath.

However, when she managed to raise the alarm, and ambulance personnel and police arrived, her husband was already dead.

At the time of the break-in, it was reported that Mr Acheson, who was found lying on the kitchen floor of his home, may have suffered a heart attack after confronting and struggling with an intruder.

© UTV News
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