Local men charged with intimidation and threats to kill

TWO men have appeared in court charged with threatening to kill and intimidating a witness in the Kevin McDaid murder investigation.

John Freeman, 21, of Tullans Park in Coleraine, is alleged to have issued the threats outside a DHSS centre in Coleraine town centre on June 29. He is also accused of threatening to kill another woman.

A police officer said a number of witnesses to the incident had refused to make statements.

He said this was because of threat messages which had been issued between both sides of the community since the murder of Mr McDaid.

The officer told Antrim Magistrates Court the defendant and a co-accused were standing outside the DHSS building when the women walked out of the building - an encounter which was "an accidental meeting".

He said it's alleged the women crossed the road and insults were shouted.

Earlier in the week another man was charged over the same incident of alleged intimidation.

At Antrim Magistrates Court on Tuesday, Jonathan Norman Stirling (21) of Windyhall Park, was accused of intimidation and was refused bail.

The witness claims he was told "you'll be where Kevin is before the Twelfth".

The court heard there are 37 suspects in McDaid's murder.

At Belfast High Court on Friday Stirling was refused bail and warned of the seriousness of any attempt to interfere with those prepared to give evidence.

A defence barrister said Stirling denies making any comments specificially about Mr McDaid.

"His assessment of the encounter is it's basically both sides telling each other to F-off, for want of a better description and it's fairly brief," the lawyer said.

A potential bail address eight miles from the Heights area was put forward, along with a suggestion that Stirling could attend alternative DHSS offices in Ballymoney.

But after hearing both sides Lord Justice Higgins pointed out how the charges were connected to a serious murder investigation.

He said: "Any attempt to interfere with witnesses involved in Crown Court proceedings must be regarded as a very grave matter indeed.

"Any attempt to deflect any person from giving evidence in any proceedings is a serious matter."

The judge said that due to the history of the case there was a general risk of further intimidation or offences while the investigation is ongoing.

Although he acknowledged the initial encounter may have been by chance, he questioned Stirling's later presence in the Heights.

"Combining these matters and taking into account the nature of the comments alleged to have been made all raise the risk of further offences.

"I'm not satisfied this is an appropriate case that this applicant should be granted bail. Therefore I refuse the application."

Mr McDaid, a Catholic community worker, was beaten to death in Coleraine on May 24 last year.