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Pregnant woman charged with murdering pensioner

A PREGNANT mother of one has been released on bail today after being charged with the manslaughter of a pensioner.

Jennifer Toland, 23, originally from Antrim but whose address was not read out in open court, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates' Court today.

She had been detained as part of the investigation into the death of Bertie Acheson, who suffered a heart attack after an altercation with an intruder at his home on April 30.

A PSNI detective constable told the court she could connect Toland to the charges. Opposing bail, the detective said there was evidence linking the accused to the crime.

The detective confirmed that Toland had been interviewed 18 times over the past three days but could not provide any alibi for the night of April 30. Toland told detectives she had been at home with her 16-month-old child.

Granting bail, District Judge Des Perry said it would be inappropriate for a woman in the middle stages of pregnancy to be in custody.

Mr Acheson, 72, and his wife Sheila had been in bed at their home in Glenmore Gardens, Coleraine, Co Londonderry when they were woken by the sound of breaking glass.

Mr Acheson went to investigate and was confronted by a male intruder in his kitchen who demanded money.

The intruder then made his way into the bedroom, where he threatened Mrs Acheson, who is 70 and suffers from arthritis, before taking her red purse and escaping with £375.

Mrs Acheson raised the alarm but, by the time ambulance personnel and police arrived, her husband was dead.

Detectives believe the heart attack was brought on by stress.

Today the court heard was told Mr Acheson had been found lying on the kitchen floor of his home. He had a broken nose which, the PSNI detective claimed, was consistent with one or more blows such as a punch. There was bruising on his neck, which the detective constable said was consistent with pressure having been applied to his neck. There was also bruising on his lip, nose and on both arms.

It was also disclosed that Mr Acheson had been suffering from an illness which meant that there was a considerable reduction in the flow of blood to his heart and it was claimed that the stress of finding an intruder together with the physical altercation would have been enough to cause a heart attack.

Crimestoppers, the independent charity, has offered a £10,000 reward for information which will lead to the arrest and conviction of the offenders.

Toland was released today to reside at an address given to the court. A cash surety was also provided.

She will appear before Ballymena Magistrates' Court on November 29.

Police inquiries into Mr Acheson's death continue.