Monday 27 March 2017

Man tried to extort €50,000 from own family with picture of gun held to head

Eoghan MacConnell

A MAN was jailed yesterday for trying to extort €50,000 from his own family by sending them pictures of himself with a gun to his head.

Father-of-two Liam Ward (32) was tried and found guilty of demanding money with menaces from William Ward Snr at a sitting of Mullingar Circuit Court last Friday.

His family begged the judge to be lenient before he sentenced Liam to five years with the final two years suspended.

Yesterday a court heard how Liam's sister Brenda contacted gardai on February 14, 2007, after being given two photographs of her brother with an apparent ransom note.

The photographs showed Liam "bound and gagged, and with a shotgun to his head," according to prosecution counsel John Hayden.

And the note claimed Liam would be killed if €50,000 was not handed over for his safe return.

From the outset gardai were looking at two possibilities, the court was told. They considered a possible kidnapping, but they also felt Liam -- who was a known drug user -- might have been involved in an extortion plot.

Liam, with addresses at Rowan Heights, Drogheda, and Meeting House Lane, Mullingar, has been addicted to drugs since he was 12.

Surveillance

Gardai set up surveillance at a number of locations and observed Liam getting out of a car and paying for fuel at a filling station near Dublin Airport. He didn't appear to be under duress, and later that evening gardai arrested Liam along with another individual.

Liam told the court he was now off drugs and doing well. He apologised to his family, the court and gardai for all of the trouble he had caused.

He said: "I just apologise to my family, you know, it's just the last thing I wanted to do."

A victim impact statement from Liam's father William and sister Brenda was read out in court. His family described the events of February 14, 2007 as a "nightmare".

However, they said they believed "without the influence of drugs and peer pressure" in Liam's life, "this would never have happened".

"We would like the court to be as lenient as possible in sentencing Liam," they added. "At the end of the day Liam is our son, our brother."

Judge Tony Hunt commended Liam's father and sister as "fine, upstanding, hardworking and conspicuously decent people". Describing the family as very dignified, Judge Hunt said: "Even after what happened last week, his family are able to say he is their son and brother".

It was a reflection of the "depths people will fall" when taking heroin, he added.

During his trial last week, it had transpired that Liam's late mother had been given an infected blood transfusion after his birth and had developed Hepatitis C.

She had received a large settlement as a result, but family members had not disclosed this to Liam. He heard about it through a relative in 2006 and subsequently took a civil action.

The court was told a "compromise" was reached with the family and the legal proceedings were dropped before they reached the courts.

Noting his history of drug abuse, Judge Hunt said he was "not surprised his mother had the good sense to not give him anything" as it would "have been squandered on drugs".

Irish Independent

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