Disguise ‘tore off’ masked man

A mother and daughter were allegedly woken by a masked man carrying a knife as part of ongoing “bad blood” between families, the High Court heard on Monday.

Prosecutors said the woman tore off the disguise to reveal his identity after he arrived at their Co Tyrone home in the middle of the night.

Michael O’Neill faces charges of criminal damage, attempted criminal damage and possession of an offensive weapon with intent over the incident on March 18.

The 47-year-old, of North Close in Stewartstown, was granted bail but banned from entering the street where the alleged victims live.

A Crown lawyer said the mother and 13-year-old girl were woken by banging noises at the front door of their home at Hillhead in the village shortly before 3am.

The court heard the woman went downstairs and discovered a man wearing dark clothes, a hood and mask on the stairs to the property - apparently carrying a long, bladed weapon.

“She challenged the man by pulling the hat and mask off to reveal his face; she knew him and he was intoxicated,” the prosecutor said.

“At that stage there was a verbal altercation and he fled, leaving the hat and handle of the weapon behind him.”

A glass panel in the front door was said to have been smashed during the incident.

Police found O’Neill in bed, drunk at his own home later that morning, the court heard.

Opposing his bid to return to Stewartstown on bail, the Crown lawyer claimed: “There’s bad blood between the applicant and injured party, and there’s anti-social behaviour as well.”

Defence counsel acknowledged the alleged offences formed part of a dispute between families.

But he stressed O’Neill denies taking any weapon to the scene, adding that none has been recovered.

As he granted bail, Mr Justice Colton described the incident as “rather ham-fisted”.

He also ordered O’Neill to abide by a curfew and electronic tagging as part of his release conditions.