SUNDAY’S SUNDAY WORLD carried a story about a recent drugs trial in Ballymena – a case I had a connection with.
In fact I was due to go to court to give evidence on behalf of the police and prosecution – until the man being charged with the crimes changed his plea to guilty.
It all started several years ago when a friend of mine who was a manager in the famous Galgorm Resort and Spa landed at my door in tears one lunch time.
He had foolishly done a deal with a paramilitary drug gang to store a large amount of drugs in his spare bedroom.
They, in turn, were giving him £800 a month for his storage. In total they had paid my friend £5,000.
Then it all went terribly wrong.
My friend’s partner, a China native, stole £25,000 of the drug stash and sold it to the Triad Gang in Belfast.
The paramilitaries came looking for my friend in Cullybackey outside Ballymena and gave him 24 hours to retrieve the drugs or get them £25,000. If he didn’t, they said, they would pour petrol on him and set him alight.
He fled from his home and landed at my door in fear and trembling.
After listening to him, I knew his life was in real danger, and with his permission I rang a senior PSNI officer who dealt with drug crimes.
My friend was taken into “protective custody”.
Later the police asked me if he could spend that night with me and that they would get him safe accommodation. Of course, I agreed.
But when the police arrived at my house in the evening there were armed men waiting in the street and the police car sped away.
My friend recently got a 6 month suspended jail sentence – suspended because he handed himself over to the police, pleaded guilty and gave evidence for the Crown.
However he will never be able to return to Northern Ireland as his life continues to be under threat.
A friend of mine, who also worships at The Oratory every Sunday always says:
“THERE IS NEVER AN ORDINARY WEEK IN LARNE”
And that’s true.