Court hears man with County Antrim address alleged men including one called 'Jonny Whip' came to his home and told him he would be 'shot' unless he handed over £5,000 within 48 hours

Court hears man with County Antrim address alleged men including one called 'Jonny Whip' came to his home and told him he would be 'shot' unless he handed over £5,000 within 48 hours

A MAN in County Antrim was allegedly told he would be shot if he did not hand over £5,000 within 48 hours.

The claim was made as two Belfast men were remanded in custody at Ballymena Magistrates Court (main picture).

Jonathan Robert Sterling (35), of Ballygomartin Road, and Stephen McLaughlin (39), of Heather Street, are charged with 'blackmail' by allegedly making 'an unwarranted demand of £5,000 with menaces' on Wednesday November 24 this year.

Objecting to bail a police officer said the alleged victim said after a knock at his door was answered by his wife two men had asked to speak to him and when he came to the door he knew them from the "Shankill Road" area of Belfast.

The court heard the householder said one of the men was "Jonny Whip" which the officer said was Sterling and the man "identified" the other man as McLaughlin.

The alleged victim told police a demand was made that he had to pay £5,000 "before the Friday" and if not he "would be shot" and if they couldn't get him then they would "go out to get his family".

The resident then said he would phone a "third party" he knew from the Shankill and alleged the men replied: "Who do you think sent us".

The householder allegedly asked if "the third party" or the "west Belfast UDA" had sent the men and he alleged McLaughlin replied "this third party is the west Belfast UDA."

The court heard that during the conversation McLaughlin received a phone call and the complainant "recognised" the voice on the line as "the third party".

Before the men left they allegedly told the man "Remember Friday"and when the complainant said "Where am I going to get five grand from" the reply was "We don't give a f*ck where you get it, just get it".

The court heard there was CCTV at the property but no audio and police believed it showed the two accused arriving in a car.

The officer said the defendants were smoking on CCTV and cigarette butts were seized from outside the address and sent off for forensic analysis.

The court heard the man and woman made statements of complaint to police and the defendants and the "third party" were arrested under the 'Terrorism Act' on December 8 in the Shankill Road area.

The officer said both defendants gave 'no comment' interviews.

The officer said police had to "dedicate resources" at the County Antrim address "to give him passing attention/reassurance to avoid these threats being carried out".

He said there had been no further incidents since the 24th of November but the resident was "still concerned" and his wife was "particularly affected" and had to visit a GP to seek help regarding her "mental health".

The officer confirmed no money had been handed over and added: "Whilst nothing has happened in the timeframe mentioned, this family are still living with that hanging over them".

The policeman said although the threat to have the man shot was not carried out he believed there was a "risk of further offences".

He said Sterling had 123 previous convictions and McLaughlin had a "limited" record.

The court heard the "third party" had been released unconditionally after being arrested.

A defence lawyer said there were issues with the quality of the CCTV images.

He said McLaughlin denied any involvement and the defendant had described the allegations as "nonsense".

The lawyer said no charges had been brought under the Terrorism Act.

District Judge Nigel Broderick refused bail saying there was a "sinister aspect" to the "serious" charges.

He said that although the defence had issues about the quality of the CCTV the police officer said he believed it was the men in the pictures.

The judge said the officer said the defendants had travelled in a car similar to one owned by a woman connected to one of the men.

The judge said Stirling had 123 previous convictions and McLaughlin a "limited record".

Judge Broderick refused bail on the grounds of a risk of further offences and potential interference of witnesses and the case was adjourned to Antrim Magistrates Court on January 4.