Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Pregnant mother-of-one charged with killing of pensioner Bertie Acheson bailed

Jennifer Toland, 23, hides her face as she leaves Ballymena Magistrates' Court charged with the manslaughter of Bertie Acheson
Jennifer Toland, 23, hides her face as she leaves Ballymena Magistrates' Court charged with the manslaughter of Bertie Acheson
Bertie Acheson, pictured with his wife Sheila, who suffered a heart attack and died after an altercation with an intruder at their home (PSNI/PA Wire)

A pregnant mother of one was released on bail yesterday after being charged with the manslaughter of a pensioner.

Jennifer Toland, 23, appeared at Ballymena Magistrates' Court.

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.

The detective said Toland had been interviewed 18 times over the past three days but could not provide any alibi for the night of April 30. She 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.

Dressed in a blue tracksuit top, white vest and navy bottoms Toland showed little emotion as the charges were put to her.

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 his heart attack was brought on by stress.

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 yesterday to reside at an address given to the court. A cash surety was also provided.

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

Police inquiries into Mr Acheson's death continue.

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