A 41-year-old Antrim man today pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing of pensioner Bertie Acheson in his Coleraine home in April 2012.
Paul James Manolito Toland, orgininally 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.
This afternoon at 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 fortnights 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.
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.