TWO brothers are accused of demanding £20,000 from a businessman for the return of his dead son’s stolen passport.
The passport, which belonged to his son who tragically lost his battle with cancer, was stolen during a break-in at business premises in Ballymoney.
The heartbroken dad had made an appeal on social media for the return of the passport. A photocopy of the passport was then sent to the father along with a demand for £20,000.
At Ballymena Magistrates Court on Thursday Shaun Kelly (33), of Dunmore Street in Coleraine, was remanded into custody charged with blackmail and handling stolen goods — a passport.
His brother —Gareth Logan (35), of the same address — faces the same charges and he had been remanded into custody at Limavady Magistrates’ Court, sitting in Ballymena, on Wednesday.
Objecting to bail for Kelly, a police officer told Ballymena Magistrates’ Court that in November last year a man had reported his business, in Ballymoney, had been broken into and a safe containing some “petty cash” and the passport stolen. The officer said the man’s son “passed away some five years ago after a fight with cancer” and the passport was of “great sentimental value”.
After the victim appealed on social media about the burglary, a “hand-written” letter addressed to the man’s wife was delivered to their home address on June 11 which contained a “colour photocopy” of the passport. On June 27 he received a text message with a demand for “20k” warning it would be “shredded”.
Police made inquiries about the number the message came from and CCTV showed a mobile phone being topped up at Tesco in Coleraine and police believed the top-up was done by Gareth Logan.
During a search of the men’s address, the stolen passport was located inside a safe along with medication “in the name of the defendant, Mr Kelly”.
Bail was refused and Kelly was remanded into custody to appear at Coleraine Magistrates’ Court on August 15.
The court heard Gareth Logan’s case was adjourned to Antrim Magistrates’ Court on August 2.