Belfast Telegraph

Years of friendship ended in betrayal

By Donna Deeney

Colum Lewis-Canning, described as a "rising star" in the world of banking, fled from Londonderry Crown Court after Judge Philip Babington had imposed a two-year suspended sentence and £52,550 compensation order on him.

Watching him walk out of the courtroom, Billy O'Neill - the man whose bank account Lewis-Canning took £100,000 from - described the past four years as "difficult".

The court heard how the two men had enjoyed a personal friendship, where their two families regularly socialised together, as well as a professional relationship, and how when Lewis-Canning left his job with the Bank of Ireland in Coleraine, Mr O'Neill switched his accounts to the Ulster Bank in Derry, where Lewis-Canning was taking up a new position.

Yesterday a four-year police investigation culminated in the two men meeting again in court, with Lewis-Canning in the dock, his reputation in tatters.

Neither men even glanced at each other as sentence was handed down - years of friendship and trust snuffed out in actions which robbed Mr O'Neill of £100,000 and Lewis-Canning of his character.

"These have been four very difficult years which have taken their toll on me," was all Mr O'Neill said before he, too, left the court.

Belfast Telegraph

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