Belfast Telegraph

Belfast brothers kidnapped cousin in 'bizarre' encounter, court told

Belfast Magistrates’ Court (Niall Carson/PA)
Belfast Magistrates’ Court (Niall Carson/PA)

By Alan Erwin

Two brothers allegedly kidnapped and imprisoned their cousin during a "bizarre" encounter in north Belfast, the High Court heard.

Stephen Johnston, 31, and Gary Johnston, 27, are also jointly accused of having a knife and hammer.

They were arrested by police investigating claims that a 21-year-old man was assaulted and forced to drive to a number of locations on October 26.

An investigating detective said the injured party was allegedly taken against his will and threatened with being stabbed if he didn't comply.

The two defendants, both of Clifton Crescent in the city, are charged with kidnapping, possessing a bladed article and possession of an offensive weapon at Torrens Crescent.

Both men also face further counts of common assault, false imprisonment and criminal damage to a glass door pane belonging to the alleged victim.

Gary Johnston was released on bail at a hearing earlier this month.

Lawyers representing Stephen Johnston argued in court on Thursday that he should also be released from custody.

Although no further details about the alleged kidnapping were disclosed in open court, Mr Justice Colton said: "This is an unusual, bizarre case."

Defence counsel Sean Mullan agreed with his assessment of the suspected circumstances.

"The complainant in this matter knows the applicant well, indeed they are believed to be third cousins," he told the court.

Mr Mullan also argued that Stephen Johnston has significant medical issues.

The court heard he suffered a stroke when he was younger, along with a neurological disorder which led to seizures and being in a coma.

"He couldn't walk or talk for periods of seven months, four months and three months," the barrister said.

"This is a man with particular health issues which will certainly not be improved in his current setting."

Granting bail, the judge ruled there was not enough to distinguish Stephen Johnston from his already released brother.

He ordered the accused to live under curfew at an agreed location, and banned any contact with the alleged victim or co-accused.

Mr Justice Colton also directed: "He's not to go outside a one-mile radius of his bail address."

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