Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone man assaulted father-in-law over land

By Staff Reporter

A man has been found guilty of assaulting his elderly father-in-law and threatening to "put a bullet behind his ear".

The incident had its roots in a family feud over property, and followed a previous confrontation with the victim's son and two daughters, Dungannon Magistrates Court heard.

James Anthony (Tony) McBride of Ballybeg Road, Coalisland, a son-in-law of the victim, denied the charges.

The victim - John 'Johnny' Fee, a popular figure in the vintage vehicle scene - said there had been difficulties caused by his grown-up children over him signing over his house and land, and McBride was part of this on behalf of his wife. She was terminally ill at the time and died the following month.

He recalled standing at his front gates at around 11am on February 13, chatting to a man repairing a trailer for him.

McBride (52) arrived on the scene "very angry and aggressive", and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ground, he said. Remarks were made to the victim that he would not be getting to his see his then very ill daughter, nor would he be permitted to attend her wake or funeral when the time came.

The injured party said McBride also shouted: "You will sign it over."

Mr Fee said that whilst lying on the ground, he was grabbed by the hair and dragged across the street, after which McBride shouted at him: "You b******, you. I'll put a bullet behind your ear."

This left the victim terrified he would be murdered.

He said: "I'm a pensioner and I live alone. I was very afraid. I had to stay with friends for the next two weeks and after that made sure I wasn't left alone.

"I was afraid he would come back and murder me."

Under cross-examination, Mr Fee agreed there had been tensions within his family and recalled an incident the previous week.

He said: "Three of my children - my son Michael and two daughters Anne and Kathleen - all landed down at my house one night and put pressure on me to sign over my property. They recorded me. They intimidated and bullied me that night."

It was put to Mr Fee he had made promises to all his children that he would give them property, and this involved signing his house and land over. On being asked how he felt about McBride as a son-in-law, Mr Fee replied: "I got on perfectly well with him until he started pushing me to sign my property over."

Defence counsel put it to Mr Fee that things did not occur as he described.

"My client will say you approached him and challenged him to hit you. He will say you ranted at him whilst he was seated in his car, telling him to keep his head out of your children's business," he said.

Mr Fee replied: "Not at all. That is pure lies."

In the witness box, McBride denied punching Mr Fee but did accept slapping him. He denied the blow knocked Mr Fee to the ground. "He invited me to hit him and I did what he asked. I gave him a slap and he lay down like a drama queen," he said.

McBride accepted pulling Mr Fee by the hair up onto his knees in order to "hit him again because he wouldn't stand up".

He also accepted shouting at the victim: "Get up and fight like a man, you yellow dirty b******."

The defendant claimed most of Mr Fee's grown-up children wanted nothing to do with him because "he promised X, Y, Z, but hasn't given anything. He promised my wife land on her wedding day but it never came."

McBride flatly rejected there was any threat of a bullet and, in relation to dragging Mr Fee by the hair, stated: "You'd have to be pretty strong to drag 15 or 16 stone by one hand."

With the evidence concluded, District Judge John Meehan immediately convicted McBride on all counts. He said: "I have no doubt the defendant gave dishonest evidence. There is no question this was a mere slap and the victim just lay down."

McBride will be sentenced on October 18.

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