Court in County Antrim hears man claims 'burn' remark referred to his back garden and not ex-partner's car

Court in County Antrim hears man claims 'burn' remark referred to his back garden and not ex-partner's car

A COURT heard a man accused of making a threat to damage a car claims a phrase 'I'll get it burnt out' instead referred to a fire in his back garden.

Details emerged at Ballymena Magistrates Court regarding Gordon Johnston (35), of Kilgreel Road, Antrim.

He is charged with making a threat to damage a Ford Fiesta belonging to his former partner; aggravated taking of the vehicle and causing damage; using the vehicle without insurance in Cullybackey; improper use of public communications, assaulting his ex and damaging her mobile phone.

The charges relate to August 30 and September 2 this year.

A police officer said they received a report of an alleged incident in which a woman said her ex-partner snatched keys to a Ford Fiesta from her and pushed her against a wall on September 30 in Cullybackey.

Five minutes later the defendant allegedly returned to the address and climbed in through a window, causing damage, to retrieve his bank card.

The court heard there were text messages in relation to the return of the vehicle and on September 2 the woman had gone to an address in Antrim to collect her car and she saw it had been damaged and it appeared a tyre had been "slashed".

The woman went to "confront" the defendant and during a "dispute and a struggle" her mobile phone was knocked from the woman's hand, smashing the screen.

The officer said the woman also alleged Johnston threw the car keys at her which struck her on the face but she was "not injured".

The policeman said the woman said the defendant sent her a message saying he would "burn the vehicle out".

The woman told police that at 2am on September 2 she had received a telephone call from Johnston that he would "get it sorted one way or the other and he was going to burn the car and that the police will have no evidence".

The officer said the defendant denied driving the vehicle and said it had been transported to his home from his ex-partner's home by a "friend of a friend" and denied causing damage.

Johnston denied assaulting the woman.

The officer said Johnston admitted sending a text message "but he says that when he referred to 'I'll get it burnt out' he was referring to a fire in his back garden and was not making reference to her vehicle".

The court heard the defendant had 99 previous convictions.

The officer said Johnston had a "domestic incident history" regarding the woman and a "number of previous partners".

He said there had been ten breaches of bail and two arrest warrants.

Defence solicitor Andrew Kinney said the defendant "accepts this relationship is toxic and utterly at an end".

The woman had bought the Fiesta for £400 from a "friend" of Johnston's, he said.

The lawyer claimed it had not been paid for in full and the vehicle was returned for some work to be done to brakes.

The solicitor said the man was due to return the car to the woman but was "reluctant" as "she had been causing him to be annoyed because she was complaining so much to him".

The lawyer said the man then left the car with Johnston on the basis that it would be returned to her from there.

District Judge Nigel Broderick said although he had "strong suspicions" it was "not without some hesitation" he was releasing the defendant on bail.

Johnston was released on bail of £500 and he is to have no contact with his ex-partner; is not to enter Cullybackey and is not to possess a mobile phone. There is also a 10pm-7am curfew.

The case was adjourned to September 30.