Family silent on Acheson guilty plea

76 year old Bertie Acheson pictured with his wife Shelia. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
76 year old Bertie Acheson pictured with his wife Shelia. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
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The family of the Coleraine pensioner who died after a robbbery in his Mountsandel home in 2012 have declined to comment after a 41-year-old Antrim man pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing on Friday.

Paul James Manolito Toland, orginally of The Cedars, Antrim, had been accused of the murder of the 72-year-old pensioner and robbing his disabled wife Shelia of £335, taken from her purse.

Paul Toland, at Belfast Crown Court on Friday after being returneed for trial for the murder of Coleraine pensioner Bertie Acheson.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

Paul Toland, at Belfast Crown Court on Friday after being returneed for trial for the murder of Coleraine pensioner Bertie Acheson.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

On Friday Belfast Crown Court, Toland’s defence QC Gavin Duffy asked for him to be re-arraigned on both charges.

When the murder charge was put ot him, smartly dressed in white shirt, tie and grey suit pants, Toland replied, that he was not guilty of murder, but guilty of manslaughter. He then also admitted the robbery.

Following his guilty plea, prosecution QC Ciaran Murphy, said that it was acceptable to the Crown, and asked for the murder charge to remain ‘on the books’.

Mr Justice Weir remanded Toland back into custody for his case to be dealt with at the end of the trial of his wife, 25-year-old mum of two Jennifer Toland.

She was not present in court, and still faces a trial for the murder of the pensioner. Her case is to be mentioned for review in a fortnight’s time.

Sitting in the public gallery, just feet from Toland, watching him as he pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of her father was his daughter Sandra, supported by her husband and a few friends.

At the weekend the family declined to comment on the latest development on the case.

Although no details were given to the court, a previously hearing was told that DNA, allegedly from Toland, a maintenance engineer, and a father of three, was found on a brick, said to have been used to smash a window in the pensioners’ Glenmore Gardens home.

A police officer had also told one hearing that Mr Acheson and his wife Sheila were woken up by the sound of breaking glass in the early hours of April 20, 2012.

The pensioner went to investigate. Mrs Acheson later told police she overheard a verbal altercation between her husband and an intruder, during which money was demanded.

The officer said that Mrs Acheson further claimed she also heard the sound of a scuffle and gasping for breath. However, when she managed to raise the alarm, and ambulance personnel and police arrived, her husband, found on the kitchen floor, was already dead.