Tuesday 20 February 2018

Woman with learning difficulties had head shaved by gang during attack, court told

Lesley-Anne McKeown

A vulnerable woman with learning difficulties was left traumatised and petrified after her head was shaved by a gang while she lay partially clothed and helpless, a court has heard.

Details emerged as 20-year-old Paula Wilson and three men appeared in the dock at Ballymena Magistrates' Court accused of a string of charges connected to the alleged attack.

District Judge Des Perry said: "It is probably one of the most horrific cases I have heard in the recent past."

Wilson, 20, whose address was not disclosed, Nathan Telford, 22, from Beechwood Avenue, Ahoghill, Co Antrim, Paul Balmer, 41, whose address was given as Maghaberry Prison, Co Antrim, and Alister Hamilton, 22, from Shane Court, Ballymena, are accused of causing grievous bodily harm, attempted grievous bodily harm and common assault.

Charges were brought against the four after Wilson's mobile telephone was seized in October by detectives investigating an unrelated matter.

The incident occurred some time between May 18 and 22 but was not reported at the time because the alleged victim, who has been granted anonymity, was too frightened.

A police officer, whose identity was not given for security reasons, said video footage and still photographs downloaded from a phone showed the woman lying unconscious at Telford's flat in Ballymoney Road, Ballymena.

"Her hair was shaved while she lay unconscious," he said. "Dry shaved by three males while Ms Wilson videoed the whole thing."

The policeman said he believed he could connect all four defendants to the charges.

The court heard claims that the woman had no recollection of what happened. She woke up partially clothed with her hair nearly all removed and her face scrawled over with black ink.

The detective said when she came round she was ordered out of the flat by Telford and returned home, outside Ballymena.

Trophy-type photographs showing the defendants posing with the unconscious woman and gesturing towards the camera were also found on the phone, the court heard.

Judge Perry said although the alleged victim had no memory of the incident, the video and images provided a "real record" of what happened.

Flanked by two prison guards the four defendants almost filled the dock of courtroom number two.

Wilson was dressed in a navy sweatshirt, jeans and white high-top trainers, with bleached blonde hair scraped into a bun on the top of her head. She smirked, smiled and chatted with her co-accused during the brief hearing.

Balmer, who looked older than the others, was wearing a blue and bright yellow zip-up tracksuit.

Hamilton, who has a tattoo of a spider's web covering most of his neck, wore a light blue jumper with an image of a naked woman on the front and combat-style blue jeans. His dark hair was shaved at the back and sides.

Ginger-haired Telford, who has tattoos covering his neck, face and hands and three ear piercings, was wearing dark tracksuit bottoms and blue trainers.

None of the defendants spoke during the proceedings.

Telford's barrister Stephen Law told the court his client's partner was four months pregnant and requested that she be allowed to speak with him after the hearing.

There were no applications for bail and all four were remanded into custody to appear again by videolink on December 5.

Online Editors

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