Belfast Telegraph

Bertie Acheson's widow can't return home: Pensioner won't enter house where husband died during burglary

OAP won't enter house where husband died during burglary, court hears

By Chris Kilpatrick

The heartbroken widow of a pensioner killed after being attacked by an intruder has been unable to face returning to their home, a court has been told.

Bertie Acheson (72) died after a confrontation with Paul James Manolito Toland, who had previously been to his property to service his vacuum cleaner.

Having seen around £2,000 cash in the house, Toland - who had 18 previous criminal convictions dating from when he was just 15 - returned and broke into the property. The court was told it was "a gross breach of trust".

Toland, originally of The Cedars in Antrim, was due to stand trial for murder but that charge was dropped after he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter as well as robbery last month.

Mr Acheson sustained a broken nose, cuts and bruises and a fracture to cartilage in his neck after the altercation with Toland in his Coleraine home.

He died of a heart attack. Toland (41) escaped with £335, having told a terrified Mrs Acheson if she did not hand him the cash from her purse he would kill her husband of 44 years.

Sheila Acheson was unable to attend the court yesterday but family, including her daughter Sandra and grandson, were in the public gallery.

Laganside Crown Court was told Mr Acheson and his wife had been woken up by the sound of breaking glass on the night he was killed in April 2012.

The pensioner went to investigate and encountered the intruder after 1am.

Mrs Acheson overheard a verbal altercation between her husband and an intruder.

She said she heard the man saying: "I want money, I want money." Mr Acheson replied: "I'll give you the keys to the car, take what you want."

Mrs Acheson, who suffers from arthritis, said she had heard the sound of a scuffle and gasping for breath.

By the time the ambulance personnel and police arrived, Mr Acheson, found face down on the kitchen floor, was already dead.

A post-mortem examination found he died of a heart attack. The court was told an underlying heart problem had been exacerbated by the stress of the confrontation and struggle.

Injuries to Mr Acheson's neck were sufficient with having been grabbed or choked, with his facial injuries believed to have been the result of being punched. Toland will be sentenced next week.

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