‘Predator’ Toland behind bars after Bertie attack

Members of 'Bertie Acheson's family leave Laganside Court in Belfast after the sentencing hearing
Members of 'Bertie Acheson's family leave Laganside Court in Belfast after the sentencing hearing

A senior detective branded a man jailed for nine years for subjecting an elderly couple to a terrifying ordeal in their home as a ‘predator’.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Ian Harrison said he is glad that Paul Toland, formerly of The Cedars in Antrim, is behind bars and is no longer a danger to the public.

30/4/2012. 76 year old Bertie Acheson pictured with his wife Shelia, Mr. Acheson died following a robbery at his home, police at Coleraine have now launched a murder enquiry. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

30/4/2012. 76 year old Bertie Acheson pictured with his wife Shelia, Mr. Acheson died following a robbery at his home, police at Coleraine have now launched a murder enquiry. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Belfast Crown Court heard that Toland will serve four and a half years in custody – the greatest period the law allowed Mr Justice Weir to impose – with a further four and a half years spent on supervised licence when he is released from prison.

Det Ch Insp Ian Harrison said the fact that Toland was sentenced on what would have been Mr Acheson’s 75th birthday had a “double impact” on the pensioner’s loved ones.

“A person who I deem to be dangerous has now been taken off the streets and people can now feel safe in their homes,” the officer said.

“Paul Toland was a predator. He preyed on the vulnerable and elderly and equally infirm couple who had been married for 44 years. His actions resulted in the death of Bertie Acheson, for just over £300.”

Toland broke into the Glenmore Gardens home of Bertie and Sheila Acheson in April 2012, and subjected Mr Acheson to a brutal attack which caused him to die from a heart attack.

Toland, a father of four, has 18 previous convictions for burglary. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Mr Justice Weir spoke of the “catastrophic” effect Toland’s actions have had on the family, and highlighted the fact that Mrs Acheson had been “quite unable to return home”. He told Toland: “The damage you have done to this family ... can never be repaired.”

A probation report revealed that Toland has expressed remorse for causing the death of Mr Acheson. However, the judge told Toland “unfortunately your remorse didn’t manifest itself in telling the police what you had done when you learned of his death. Instead, the family had to endure a painstaking police investigation over a period of time before they connected you with the crime.”

A post-mortem revealed Mr Acheson died of “coronary artery atheroma in association with pressure on his neck, and emotional and physical stress”.