Belfast Telegraph

Drug addict trio in £6,000 fake abduction plot jailed

By John Cassidy

Three Belfast men have been jailed for their roles in a fake kidnapping plot hatched by one of the accused to extort £6,000 from his family to pay off his drug debts.

John Gerard Shields was described at Belfast Crown Court as the "instigator" of the bogus kidnapping which involved threats to his father and his young son in a "desperate'' effort to extract the money.

Shields (29), whose address was given as c/o Maghaberry Prison, received a jail term of three years and four months for "hatching, planning and devising'' the blackmail scam.

Thomas Owen McGrath (29), of Old Road, Ballinderry, Co Antrim, was jailed for two years and four months after the court heard he allowed his home to be used for the fake kidnapping, and he had also made a number of phonecalls to Shields' father Jackie.

Peter McKeown (43), of Springfield Road, west Belfast, received a two-year sentence for making threatening phonecalls and collecting the extortion money.

All three accused, who the court heard were drug addicts, had previously pleaded guilty to a single charge of blackmail.

Prosecution counsel Robin Steer told the court that in August 2013, the defendant Shields had told his partner and his family that he owed money to drug dealers and that his "life was in danger" to get money from his family, but was at McGrath's home.

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