Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

PSNI helicopter sent out over bogus gunman alert, court told

A police helicopter was sent out on a search mission following a bogus warning that a gunman was set to shoot up a brother and sister's home, the High Court has heard.

Specialist firearms officers were also deployed after a Co Down man allegedly made the hoax call to claim he was en route to the house with a loaded pistol.

A judge was told Jackie Johnson's "bizarre" behaviour could have resulted in him being shot if police had believed he was armed.

Prosecutors also said the helicopter, which costs £1,600 an hour to put in the air, was deployed because the incident was taken so seriously.

Johnston (28), of Ballyree Gardens, Bangor, faces charges of wasting police time and making a false report of an offence. He is further accused of two counts of possessing an offensive weapon and making threats to kill over an incident two days later.

The court heard police were told in a phone call on June 30 that Johnston had been seen loading a semi-automatic pistol and claiming to be on his way to shoot up the house in question.

A search operation launched in the Bangor and Ballynahinch areas failed to locate him.

Crown counsel Kate McKay said a man who identified himself as Johnston phoned police the next day asking why his mother's home had been searched. Johnston was arrested and charged with the offences before the court.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey stressed that no gun was ever involved in the incident.

He added that those his client is accused of threatening to kill were themselves under investigation for allegedly trying to murder him.

Granting bail, Mr Justice Treacy banned the accused from entering Ballynahinch or Downpatrick, and told him to have no contact with any alleged witnesses.

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